The Fluid Mechanics and Thermal Sciences program in the UCSB Mechanical Engineering department emphasizes the understanding of various fundamental aspects of thermodynamics and heat transfer related to practical engineering problems, such as energy and materials processing and manufacturing.
Research Themes in Fluid Mechanics & Thermal Sciences
In the area of energy, ongoing projects include a feasibility study on the use of polymeric solutions and surfactants as additives to improve the efficiency of large-scale cooling and heating systems. Numerical modeling of radiative heat transfer in a high-temperature gas/particle scattering system is conducted to improve the energy efficiency of large-scale industrial furnaces. Faculty and graduate students are collecting measurement data of direct-contact heat transfer in liquid-liquid systems that will be valuable in improving the efficiency of geothermal power plants. In collaboration with the Department of Chemical Engineering, our faculty are carrying out fundamental studies of various thermal hydraulic phenomena related to the safety of nuclear reactors.
In the area of material processing and manufacturing, ongoing work includes a study of the transport phenomena during rapid solidification. Fundamental studies of the heat transfer and friction characteristics of viscoelastic solutions are conducted. Some work also is directed toward measurement of thermo-mechanical properties of new materials. One ongoing project measures the direct-contact resistance at low temperature for different surfaces and materials. Another project measures the thermo-mechanical properties of electronic materials. Effective thermal and radiative properties of high-temperature fibrous composite materials are evaluated both numerically and experimentally.
The Department's thermal sciences group is well-equipped to perform research and teaching. Facilities include a computerized installation for the study of turbulent convection of non-Newtonian fluids, a high-speed video system with macrographic capability for solidification and materials processing experiments, a holographic apparatus designed to measure thermo-mechanical properties at low temperature, and a high-temperature furnace for the measurement of high-temperature thermal properties.
Faculty research in the area of fluid mechanics is quite diverse, with experimental, analytic, and numerical investigations in rheology and turbulent flow of viscoelastic fluids; computational fluid dynamics and aeroelasticity of transonic flow; environmental problems, including water pollution and sediment resuspension, deposition, and transport; ground water flows; wakes and shear flows; and ocean engineering. The fluid mechanics program is well-supported by state-of-the-art computers and laboratories, including: a rotating fluid facility, a sediment properties and transport lab, and a non-Newtonian fluid mechanics laboratory. Fluid Mechanics faculty enjoy extensive interactions with their colleagues in the Department of Materials and the Ocean Engineering Laboratory.