A consortium of fluid dynamics experts from across the UK, including one from the University of Warwick, has secured funding for a five year project to examine how microscopic flow systems can help meet global challenges in health, transportation, energy and climate.
Dr Duncan Lockerby, from the School of Engineering, has been awarded the £2.4 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) with partners Professor Jason Reese (University of Strathclyde) and Professor David Emerson (Daresbury Laboratory, Warrington).
The cross-disciplinary research programme will investigate how fluid dynamics at the micro- and nano-scale can help the design of a wide range of future technologies and applications: from extracting drinking water from the sea, to re-imagining aircraft and ship surfaces for the best fuel efficiency.
The United Nations estimate that four billion people in 48 countries will lack sufficient water by 2050. As 97 percent of the water on the planet is saltwater, large-scale technologies to make seawater or other contaminated water drinkable are therefore needed urgently.
At the same time, figures from the US Energy Information Administration forecast that China's passenger transportation energy use per capita will triple over the next 20 years, and India's will double. Improving the fuel efficiency of air and marine transport is a strategic priority for governments and companies around the world, and could drastically reduce emissions that lead to climate change.
Dr Lockerby said: “Over the next 40 years, engineering flow systems at the micro and nano scale will form a major part of the world’s response to the challenges facing us in transport, energy, climate and health.
“For example, recent research has indicated that membranes of carbon nanotubes are surprisingly efficient at filtering salt ions from seawater. Also, embedded micro systems and nano structures on aircraft surfaces and ship hulls have the potential to drastically reduce drag and emissions.
“However, many of the assumptions that underpin the conventional treatment of fluids are quite wrong when you consider very small systems. This research is about making sure we get the fluid dynamics right, so that we can produce accurate simulation tools for the technology designers of the future.
The five-year research project will deliver a new technique for simulating fluid flows at the micro and nano scale, which will be deployed on three technical challenges: reducing drag in aerospace; applications of super-hydrophobic surfaces to marine transport; and water desalination/purification.
The aim will be to accurately predict the performance of these proposed technologies, optimise their design, and propose new designs that exploit the unusual flow behaviour at these scales.
Starting in January 2011, the research grant will fund 15 years of researcher time and five doctoral scholarships. The research is strongly supported by nine external partners, ranging from large multinational companies to SMEs and public advisory bodies.
Notes to Editors
For more information contact Luke Hamer, Assistant Press Officer, University of Warwick, on 02476 575601, or on 07824 541142. Alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org