Masahiro Kawaji (PI), Sanjoy Banerjee, Robert Messinger, Jeffrey Morris, Vincent Pauchard (CUNY City College)

Multi-phase fluid flows involving mixtures of liquids, and often solids and gases as well, play an important role in nature and in the environment. Research on multi-phase flows is important to many key energy technologies, including oil-gas production and processing, energy conversion and storage, refrigeration and heating/cooling systems. This PIRE project will investigate microscopic phenomena occurring in complex liquid-liquid, multi-phase systems. The collaborative research will result in innovations in both experimental and modeling methods, leading to improvements in energy and process efficiency in industrial systems. It will also accelerate education and training of students and early career researchers by providing them unique opportunities participate in substantive international research experiences, taking advantage of the scope, scale, expertise, and facilities of the PIRE network. The City College of New York (CCNY) will collaborate with eleven international partner institutions, three in Norway, and four each in France and Germany. Partners will contribute both expertise and research tools that are complementary to those available at CCNY. The resources and research infrastructure will be shared to build strong international partnerships and enable research advances in multi-phase fluids that could not occur otherwise. The research and education plans will ensure that the U.S. maintains its competitive status in the field of complex, multi-phase fluids and their applications to engineering systems.

This PIRE project includes four research thrusts wherein microscopic-scale insight into molecular and interfacial control of transport phenomena would result in transformative improvements in commercial-scale energy processes: asphaltenes, gas hydrates, drilling fluids, and phase-change nano-emulsions, with diverse applications in oil & gas, thermal energy storage, and environmentally friendly refrigeration. The critical common issue in the four research thrusts is that molecular-scale phenomena, particularly at interfaces, impact macro-scale properties and behavior. Through experiments and theoretical/numerical analyses, the overarching objectives of this project are to (i) elucidate molecular-level phenomena that govern the formation, aggregation and stability of interfacial and network structures in multi-phase systems, and (ii) control their development and effects on macro-scale rheology and transport processes. Challenging fundamental issues will be addressed related to interfacial adsorption and/or crystallization processes by network-forming species or particles, which can form bridges between dispersed phases and dramatically affect macroscopic fluid behavior, e.g., transitions from fluid to gel-like systems or heat and mass transfer instabilities. Resolution of these problems could transform the ability to efficiently use, transport, and control complex, multi-phase fluids, which include liquids with other immiscible and dispersed liquid, gas, and/or solid phases. To address these issues, cross-cutting research approaches available at CCNY and international partner institutions will be used, e.g., from nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, density functional theory (DFT) and molecular dynamics (MD) at the molecular scale, to X-ray tomography, X-ray particle tracking velocimetry, rheological measurements and Lattice Boltzmann (LB) simulations at the micro- and macro-scales. Using cutting-edge experimental and theoretical research techniques that probe physicochemical phenomena up from the atomic length scale, the proposed project will transform existing understanding of multi-phase fluids while incorporating a unique set of non-intrusive, radiation-based techniques with wavelengths ranging from radiofrequencies to gamma-ray frequencies (e.g., high resolution tomography).

National Science Foundation (NSF)
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Cassandra Dudka
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CUNY City College
New York
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