This article was first published in the first edition of REVEAL Magazine in September 2019.
Academic Perspectives on Sustainability
Researchers, professors, students and others working in academia are at the forefront of shaping the future of our world and in many cases, they are using simulation, design and engineering to do so. In this section of REVEAL Magazine, we hear directly from academics about their perspective on important trends and topics and learn about some of the work they are doing to create the future.
This edition of REVEAL focuses on sustainability and we ask academics to tell us about how sustainability plays a role in the work that they do across various industries including additive manufacturing, life sciences, transportation and mobility, and renewable energy.
SIRIVATCH SHIMPALEE, PHD
Research Professor, Chemical Engineering Department, University of South Carolina
How has the simulation of fluid mechanics advanced your research in the area of renewable energy including fuel cells, energy storage, high temperature thermal system, and bioenergy?
To understand heat, mass transport, and other physics such as electrochemical and electrokinetics inside renewable energy and bioenergy devices, the multiphysics simulation of fluid mechanics is necessary for research and development in these areas because those physics cannot be easily obtained by just performing experiments. For example, the water management inside a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell (FC) is very important for maximizing its performance, since the byproduct of electrochemical reaction is not only electrical power but also water and heat. Condensed water inside a PEMFC can decrease its performance significantly, especially when it is clogged inside very thin (10 to 150 micrometer) porous layer, thus blocking the oxygen flowing to the catalyst surface and reducing oxygen transport to the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). Computational simulation of this phenomena can definitely help researchers and developers to improve the design of porous materials and optimize operating condition of PEMFCs in order to maximize the ORR.
Figure 1 shows an example of an XFlow simulation of water condensation and its evolution in side porous layers . It can be seen that by changing operating conditions, liquid water presented inside this layer will be different. The results from the simulations can help improve the novel porous layer design, by the modification of catalyst and gas diffusion layer structures, and/or the dispersion of a platinum a deleted catalyst. Furthermore, this work should reduce cost and development time for improving PEMFC design. All research projects I have done and been doing will give great impact to several kinds of industry such as electric power, automotive, solar energy, gas, pharmaceutical, and porous-material industries. All of them require the deepest knowledge of transport phenomena to enhance their products and services for a sustainable future.
For more information: www.che.sc.edu/researchfaculty/shimpalee.htm
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