Associate professor Sukalyan Bhattacharya is working on a mathematical model that can help improve thermal properties and fuel efficiency.
Mathematical analyses have helped scientists explain observed phenomena for centuries. Explanation of one such intriguing observation on nano-fluidic properties remains elusive for decades now.
Sukalyan Bhattacharya, an associate professor in Texas Tech University's Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, received a three-year, $369,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to find why nanoparticles dramatically enhance heat conduction in a liquid.
All existing theories under-predict the impact of Brownian motion, or random movement, of nanoparticles on thermal transport in a fluid. Bhattacharya will propose a new mathematical modeling to capture this effect of submicron bodies properly.
“Fluids laden with nanoparticles have enhanced heat-conduction properties, but this phenomenon still lacks explanation,” Bhattacharya said. “The key reason behind the accelerated thermal transport can be attributed to the Brownian motion of the suspended nanospecies. Randomly moving submicron solids act like tiny stirrers inside the liquid, creating a similar effect like someone stirring a hot beverage with a spoon to cool it down. Unfortunately, past studies have failed to properly quantify this Brownian contribution by consistently underpredicting its influence.”
With the NSF grant, Bhattacharya hopes to create a new statistical mechanics description based on fluctuating hydrodynamics and heat transfer. If successful, his research could lead manufacturers to produce better-quality engine coolants and more energy-efficient fuel.
“If the underlying cause is identified, it can be exploited in creating better coolant and energetic materials, leading to improvements in devices like heat exchangers, gas turbines and internal-combustion engines,” Bhattacharya said. “Moreover, it will help in energy efficiency and pollution control in engines by ensuring fast and complete combustion of liquid fuels while eliminating wasteful and harmful presence of the fuel in the exhaust.”