Thermal Science & Fluid Mechanics

The Thermal Sciences and Fluid Mechanics 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 Thermal Sciences & Fluid Mechanics

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; fluid energy extraction by tidal arrays and wind farms. 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, a wind tunnel, a towing tank, and stratified flow facilities capable of of simultaneous meansurement of velocity and density fields.  Fluid Mechanics faculty enjoy extensive interactions with their colleagues in the Department of Materials and the Ocean Engineering Laboratory.

Many fundamental issues in fluid mechanics research, such as the nature of turbulence, multiphase and interfacial fluid dynamics, micro- and nanofluid mechanics, are addressed mostly within Engineering and Physics departments. However, consistent with the importance of fluid mechanics across a wide range of disciplines, the UCSB campus has a large number of researchers distributed over many research units who share a strong interest in various aspects of fluid mechanics. The Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Fluids (CIRF) was formed to promote scientific interactions and interdisciplinary collaborations among the UCSB fluids community, and to enhance the educational opportunities for our graduate students.