This award supports a collaborative research visit to enable Professor John Abraham at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana to meet with Professors Graham Nathan, Director of the Centre for Energy Technology (CET) at the University of Adelaide in Australia. The researchers will begin planning a collaborative project on a two-phase solar reactor development by the novel application of advanced laser diagnostics and modeling. They will develop an optimization gasification process for production of syngas from carbon feedstocks using solar radiation as the heat source. Gasification of carbon feedstocks to produce syngas has been shown to be a clean and efficient way to utilize coal and biomass. Improvements in the performance of the reactor in which the gasification occurs can increase the overall efficiency of the system. There are optimum pressure and temperature conditions, flow and heat transfer conditions, and residence time requirements within the reactor which can maximize the production of syngas. At the CET reactor, concentrated solar radiation is employed to initiate the gasification process. The CET has developed unique and advanced optical diagnostic techniques to carry out fundamental experimental studies to achieve this improved understanding. However, the proposed experiments alone cannot provide the information needed to achieve a complete understanding of the physics in the reactor. Advanced computational modeling is also required and will be provided by the U.S. researchers by developing a reliable computational fluid dynamics model suitable for compact, direct heat-exchange solar reactors.
There is sufficient overlap of interests between researchers in the U.S and Australia to indicate that they can successfully pursue the activities proposed, and that the interaction will benefit both sides by developing the fundamental understanding needed to develop highly-efficient reactors for gasification of carbon feedstocks. Both the U.S. and Australia possess large coal reserves. Advanced coal gasifiers will significantly accelerate the development of clean coal technologies in these countries and this will help in the reduction of carbon emissions. Dependence on domestic energy resources, such as coal, will also strengthen the energy security of both countries. A U.S. graduate student will be taking part in this visit. This project will provide the student with additional academic and cultural experiences, as well as experience in all aspects of the research. It is anticipated that the student will maintain contact with the Australian collaborators for additional research projects in the future.
The research objective of the collaborative project was to establish a unique program employing the latest laser diagnostic tools to provide the new understanding and data needed to develop reliable computational fluid dynamics models suitable for the optimisation and advancement of compact, direct heat-exchange solar reactors. The experimental component of this work employing advanced laser diagnostic tools is being carried out by Professor Graham J. Nathan and Dr. Zeyad T. Alwahabi at the University of Adelaide. The modeling and computational component of the work will be carried out by the Principal Investigator (John Abraham) at Purdue University. The travel funds provided by NSF are to support the PI to visit the University of Adelaide to establish the collaborative project and develop a full and comprehensive proposal for submission to NSF.The experimental researchers at the University of Adelaide submitted a separate proposal on their component of the project to the Australian Research Council with the PI (John Abraham) as a Partner Investigator of their proposal. ARC funded the project. The Principal Investigator visited the Center for Energy Technology at the University of Adelaide on four separate occasions to collaborate with Professor Graham ("Gus") J. Nathan and his research team on computational modeling of the solar vortex gasifier in which optical diagnostics are being carried out at the University of Adelaide. They jointly developed a research proposal which has been submitted to NSF. One Ph.D. graduate student is currently working at Purdue University on the computational component of the project with internal support from the University. As a result of the collaboration, the University of Adelaide has invested over AU$200,000 in computational resources to support a computational program in which the PI has active involvement. One postgraduate student and a post-doctoral fellow will also be supported on the computational component of the project at the University of Adelaide.