Nano-Engineered Flow Technologies: Simulation for Design across Scale and Phase

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Sch of Engineering

Abstract

Over the next 25 years, society will face major challenges in health, transportation, energy and climate that will demand novel engineering solutions. Recent rapid advances in device and materials fabrication offer an important opportunity to help meet these challenges by enabling new technologies to be engineered down to the nanometre scale. Devices that manipulate fluids at the smallest scales exhibit complex and sometimes counter-intuitive phenomena that present novel scientific and technological opportunities. The scientific opportunity is to understand and model how the microscopic physics at and around phase interfaces drives the overall flow behaviour. The technological opportunity is to exploit this behaviour to design and manufacture devices with unprecedented capabilities. This research Programme is about uncovering the engineering science of flows that are intrinsically multiscale, and encapsulating this in efficient modelling software in order to enable the design of next generation technologies.

This Programme aims to underpin future UK innovation in nano-structured and smart interfaces by delivering a simulation-for-design capability for nano-engineered flow technologies, as well as a better understanding of the critical interfacial fluid dynamics. We will produce software that a) resolves interfaces down to the molecular scale, and b) spans the scales relevant to the engineering application. As accurate molecular/particle methods are computationally unfeasible at engineering scales, and efficient but conventional fluids models do not capture the important molecular physics, this is a formidable multiscale problem in both time and space. Our software will have embedded intelligence that decides dynamically on the correct simulation tools needed at each interface location, for every phase combination, and matches these tools to appropriate computational platforms for maximum efficiency.

The outcome will be a revolutionary new framework for simulating multiscale multiphysics systems in nature as well as engineering, greatly surpassing current modelling capabilities. The step-change advances this represents include:
- predictive simulations of engineering-scale systems with nanoscale fidelity;
- new insight into the physics of interfacial flow systems;
- computational resources allocated in-simulation to enable more rapid system analysis;
- assessment of proposed flow system designs that were not previously amenable to investigation;
- accessing trans-disciplinary applications in granular flows and avalanche dynamics, and social/economic systems including urban traffic modelling and financial market stability.

This work is strongly supported by 9 external partners, ranging from large multinational companies to an SME. The targeted applications all depend on the behaviour of interfaces that divide phases, and include: radical cancer treatments that exploit nano-bubble cavitation; the cooling of high-power electronics through evaporative nano-menisci; nanowire membranes for separating oil and water, e.g. for oil spills; and smart nano-structured surfaces for drag reduction and anti-fouling, with applications to low-emissions aerospace, automotive and marine transport. These applications make demands on simulation for engineering design that far outstrip current capabilities. Our partners will therefore be 'early-adopters' of this Programme's outcomes in order to meet the technical capabilities they will need to provide in the future.

This interdisciplinary research draws on techniques and results across the boundaries of applied mathematics, physics, mechanical engineering, and computing. Its timeliness lies in the convergence of a uniquely-qualified academic team with a group of engaged and committed industrial partners, who will work together to exploit current and emerging nano-engineered flow systems for societal and economic benefit to the UK and elsewhere.

Planned Impact

Impact from this Programme will be academic, industrial, environmental and societal. Encapsulating multiscale interfacial fluid dynamics within a tractable design methodology presents an important direct benefit to UK industry and manufacturing: by enabling nano-engineered flow design, new technologies with unprecedented capabilities can be devised, which have clear long-term industrial and societal potential. These include emissions reduction, new disease treatments, future telecoms, and other applications that will contribute to the sustainability of our environment and our standard of living. This Programme will deliver a sequence of targeted outcomes to user communities, ranging from predictive software tools to design guidelines. Impact routes range from academic publications in international journals, to training courses for industrial partners, and the design of tangible prototypes out of our research.

Academic beneficiaries will gain from the new light this Programme will shed on flow physics at the micro and nano scales. Additional academic impact will arise from the generic nature of our simulation techniques, which will benefit researchers in other Research Council-supported streams (e.g. chemical/biological molecular modelling) from pure (e.g. maths) to applied (e.g. thin-film cooling of turbomachinery, nano fuel-cell technologies). We will also target completely new applications for our multiscale analysis, from geotechnical engineering to population dynamics, making this a truly interdisciplinary Programme.

Direct non-academic beneficiaries over the medium- to long-term (i.e. 3-15 years) will be our 9 external partners, who will be early-adopters of Programme outcomes as they have identified clear long-term potential in this research for the technical capabilities they will need to provide to customers in the future:
- Bell Labs, on nanoscale cooling technologies for next generation computer networking;
- AkzoNobel and Jaguar Land Rover, on nano-structured surface treatments for marine and road vehicles;
- Oxford Institute of Biomedical Engineering, on targeted drug delivery using engineered nano-particles;
- Waters, on developing new mass spectrometers with unprecedented sensitivity;
- Airbus Group, on active drag control for aircraft;
- ESA, on the fundamental science of evaporating droplets and boiling;
- NPL, on multiphase flow in porous materials, and biological phenomena;
- TotalSim Ltd, on state-of-the-art computational fluid dynamics software and training.

Programme activities to engage with these and other external beneficiaries to maximise impact include:
1) Two-way secondments of key personnel from external partners and the Programme to gain first-hand experience of industrial priorities and research challenges, to identify mutual research opportunities, and to train partners in the software tools we develop.
2) Participation of the external partners in our Steering & Impact Committee, providing advice and support to the Programme sub-projects.
3) In-Programme training of research personnel who will then be able to work to sustain UK efforts long-term in this field in government laboratories, industry (including our external partners), or academia.
4) Using Knowledge Transfer Networks, Catapults, and other networks as platforms to share knowledge on technological opportunities arising from the research.

New external beneficiaries will be actively sought as the Programme progresses. Producing insight into interfacial fluid dynamics, and releasing our software open-source where possible, will accelerate the development of future multiscale technologies, beyond any currently conceived. As a flagship for British engineering science, this Programme helps make a compelling case to the public and government for continued investment in leading-edge UK engineering.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The focus of the Programme Grant is on understanding, predicting, and ultimately exploiting, multi-phase flow phenomena occurring at the micro and nano scale.

Now in the latter half of this five-year Programme, significant progress has been made in the modelling and simulation of such flows. The technical details can be found in a range of publications (found at micronanoflows.ac.uk) along with open-source software --- over 50 journal articles have been published.
Exploitation Route A number of models and multi-scale simulation tools have been developed for different multiphase nano-flow phenomena. These have a potential impact on a raft of future nano technologies. Future research opportunities enable from this Programme Grant include:

1. Airborne pathogens and particulate matter: advancing modelling & simulation
Airborne particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5µm or less (known as PM2.5) contributes to a wide range of adverse health effects - an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths were caused by particulate matter in 2016 alone (Source: WHO). Viral infections are transported in water drops of a similarly small size, which become airborne when we cough and sneeze, and that can survive (before being evaporated) for very long periods of time. Understanding the flow characteristics of such pathogens and particulate, through modelling and simulation, is critical to designing future measures to contain and control them, including designing effective filtration systems and cheap, reliable sensors. The size of these objects, be they rigid particles or evaporating drops, can be comparable to the molecular `mean free path', and demand modelling and computational methods beyond the state of the art. In the UK we are in a position to pioneer and exploit this emerging opportunity - namely, in flexible tools for the aerodynamic prediction of very slow, very small objects.

2. Computational Modelling for a Revolution in the Manufacture of Nano-Technologies
Technologies of the future are demanding computational modelling tools that enable us to understand the fluid dynamics of the nanoscale, where molecular Brownian motions drive remarkably counter-intuitive flow patterns. Within this nano-world, the traditional design tool of computational fluid dynamics (cfd) software is impotent and molecular simulations are prohibitively expensive. However, the UK is at the forefront of attempts to develop 'nano-hydrodynamic' mathematical models; inspired by molecular simulations yet operating within computationally-tractable environments. Therefore, a unique opportunity exists to exploit this expertise and develop disruptive design-for-simulation capabilities that can put the UK at the forefront of the manufacture of fluid-based nano-technologies.
Sectors Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport

URL http://www.micronanoflows.ac.uk
 
Description Darcy-scale dynamics of microscopically fluctuating interfaces
Amount £306,353 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P020887/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 08/2020
 
Description EPSRC Programme Grant "Enabling Next Generation Additive Manufacturing" led by Nottingham with Sprittles in Warwick (EP/P031684/1); £456,068 (Total value £7.2M), 1/9/17 - 31/8/22
Amount £7,200,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P031684/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 08/2022
 
Description EPSRC project "From Kinetic Theory to Hydrodynamics: re-imagining two fluid models of particle-laden flows", £412,290 (Total value £788,180) (1/1/18, for 4 years)
Amount £788,180 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R008027/1 (EP/R007438/1) 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2021
 
Description EPSRC project (Meng and Emerson, EP/P022243/1) "HiLeMMS: High-Level Mesoscale Modelling System", £513,863, 1/6/17 - 31/5/20
Amount £513,863 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P022243/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2017 
End 06/2020
 
Description From Kinetic Theory to Hydrodynamics: re-imagining two fluid models of particle-laden flows
Amount £391,973 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R008027/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2021
 
Description Royal Academy of Engineering, Chair in Emerging Technologies (CiET1718\54, £1.3M, 03/18-02/28) to JMR
Amount £1,300,000 (GBP)
Funding ID CiET1718\54 
Organisation Royal Academy of Engineering 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 02/2028
 
Description UK Consortium on Mesoscale Engineering Sciences (UKCOMES)
Amount £331,316 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R029598/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2018 
End 05/2022
 
Description Warwick University and Waters Corporation. 
Organisation Waters Corporation
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Joint-funded PhD studentship. An industrial collaboration on ultrasound cavitation in micro channels.
Collaborator Contribution Hosting the student and regular supervisory meetings.
Impact NS
Start Year 2017
 
Title OpenFOAM 2.4.0 plus the MicroNanoFlow Group Codes 
Description OpenFOAM is a free, open source computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software package released by the OpenFOAM Foundation. It has a large user base across most areas of engineering and science, from both commercial and academic organisations. In this GitHub repository we include codes developed (as an extension to OpenFOAM) for simulating non-continuum fluid dynamics (e.g. mdFoam and dsmcFoam). The Micro & Nano Flows (MNF) Group are the original authors of the mdFoam and dsmcFoam applications. This repository provides up to date versions of these applications (name mdFOAM and dsmcFOAM), with the groups most recent developments included along with documentation and new tutorial cases. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2016 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Impact is difficult to ascertain at this stage, as it is in early release. 
URL https://github.com/MicroNanoFlows
 
Description Article in The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article on one of the outputs of this grant in The Conversation (6000+ reads) "We may just have solved the great mystery of why drops splash"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://theconversation.com/we-may-just-have-solved-the-great-mystery-of-why-drops-splash-74858
 
Description Front Cover of Journal of Fluid Mechanics Issue 861, 3rd Most Read article in January/February 2019, Press Release, Physics Today article & others. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Front Cover of Journal of Fluid Mechanics Issue 861, 3rd Most Read article in January/February 2019, Press Release, Physics Today article & others.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.1.20190221a/full/
 
Description Kelvin Medal Lecture (public talk) - Royal Society of Edinburgh 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Kelvin Medal Lecture (public talk) - Royal Society of Edinburgh - Professor Jason Reese
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Pillai, interview about acoustothermal atomization of water nanofilms on BBC Radio Scotland, Newsdrive programme, 10/09/18, https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/m0000cjx (starting at 1:47:30) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 1) Interview about acoustothermal atomization of water nanofilms on BBC Radio Scotland, Newsdrive programme, 10/09/18, https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/m0000cjx (starting at 1:47:30)

2) News item about acoustothermal atomization of water nanofilms on BBC News website, 10/09/18, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-45471403
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-45471403
 
Description Press release on an outcome of the project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Warwick University Press Release on new publication resulting from our project in Physical Review Letters.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/why_water_splashes/
 
Description Talk to Institute of Physics, Retired Members Section (Imperial College, 5/1/17) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact JM Reese, "Desalination using nanotubes", talk to Institute of Physics, Retired Members Section (Imperial College, 5/1/17)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description YouTube Channel "CFD Simulations of Capillary Flows" (1800 views from 1/1/16 - 9/2/17) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact YouTube Channel "CFD Simulations of Capillary Flows" (1800 views from 1/1/16 - 9/2/17)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://www.youtube.com/user/jsprittles
 
Description YouTube video created for lay audience 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A youtube video was created to publicise the research, and the grant award, to a lay audience. This has, to date, been viewed 1700 times. It has generated substantial interest in researchers and students wanting to work in this research field. It was used in press releases connected to the grant announcement, and is on our project's homepage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKjRxeFVSTY
 
Description article in the Leverhulme Trust Newsletter entitled Skating on thin nanofilms: how liquid drops impact solids 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact JE Sprittles & DA Lockerby, article on page 4 of the Leverhulme Trust Newsletter entitled Skating on thin nanofilms: how liquid drops impact solids
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016