The National Science Foundation has awarded a $324,709 grant to Dr. Amy Fleischer BSME ’91, MSME ’96, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the principal investigator on the proposal; Dr. Aaron Wemhoff, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering; and Dr. Randy Weinstein, Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering. The three-year grant will fund a project titled “Thermal Transport in Nanoenhanced Phase Change Materials.”
Phase change materials (PCMs), that is, substances that absorb and release thermal energy during transient heating, have been successfully employed at small scales for solar energy storage, in energy-efficient building materials, and in the cooling of portable electronics. However, the low thermal conductivity of PCMs makes them less effective in larger systems. Recent studies have shown that embedding graphite nanofibers into PCMs improves their thermal performance.
The purpose of Dr. Fleischer, Dr. Wemhoff, and Dr. Weinstein’s research will be to examine thermal transport in nanoenhanced PCMs during melting and solidification in layers of varying thickness and to determine which energy-transport mechanisms are responsible for the improved thermal performance.
“We want to fully explore all the parameters that govern the behavior of the materials so that we can create engineered materials that have certain properties for particular applications,” Dr. Fleischer said. Those applications include the thermal management of portable electronics and solar energy charging.
Each research partner brings a particular area of expertise to the project. Dr. Weinstein, who has been investigating nanoenhanced PCMs with Dr. Fleischer for the past six years, will be responsible for fabricating and characterizing the graphite nanofibers. Dr. Wemhoff will use molecular dynamics modeling to predict the nature of the energy transport in the various nanofiber styles. Dr. Fleischer will conduct the testing and heat transfer analysis.
The grant also will support two doctoral students, Ron Warzoha ME ’08 and Masoud Hakik, as well as several undergraduates.