In recognition of her outstanding research accomplishments, Yangying Zhu, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has received the 2021 Pi Tau Sigma Gold Medal Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The annual award, established in 1938, celebrates one individual’s outstanding contributions within his/her first ten years of earning a bachelor’s degree.
“I am grateful to receive the Pi Tau Sigma Gold Medal from my peers,” said Zhu, who earned her bachelor’s degree in building technology at Tsinghua University in 2011 and completed her PhD in mechanical engineering at MIT in 2017. “It is both humbling and encouraging to know the research community values my group’s work to achieve more efficient thermal management and design novel sustainable energy solutions.”
After spending two years as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, Zhu joined the UCSB faculty in fall 2019. Her research focuses on using thermo-fluid engineering approaches for electronics, water, and sustainable energy solutions. Her work combines fundamental understanding in heat and mass transfer with novel materials fabrications and characterization capabilities to address challenges in energy storage, thermal management of electronics, water harvesting, and transmittance of respiratory diseases. She has made important contributions to her field’s understanding and manipulation of phase-change thermal transport using nanostructures. While nanoengineered structures have been well recognized to improve phase-change thermal transport, Zhu developed detailed modeling to understand the enhancement mechanisms and validated the result by a series of flow boiling experiments. Her work could lead to improved colling of high-power-density electronics.
Zhu has also made important contributions to understanding microscale thermal effects in batteries. She pioneered the use of micro-Raman spectroscopy for in situ temperature sensing of battery electrodes and discovered that a heterogeneous temperature can cause highly detrimental lithium plating to occur by thermodynamically shifting the equilibrium potentials of battery electrodes. These studies can help to provide a better understanding of why batteries fail in various thermal environments and lead the way to safer battery designs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Zhu leveraged her expertise in microscale heat and mass transfer to model the evaporation and trajectory of respiratory droplets and aerosol in various environmental conditions. The results can be used to inform the general public as to which mode of transmission is more likely to occur in different environments, information that could, in turn, provide environmental-specific social-distancing guidelines.
Previous honors received by Zhu include an Early CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. Insights gained from her CAREER award project could lead to improved phase-change devices that enable energy savings and increase efficiency.