Small-scale Fluid Dynamics with Energy and Environmental Implications
Donald R. Dixon ’69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor | Chair
Fluid flows occur at every scale in our environment, from flows through the porous and fractured materials that make up Earth’s subsurface to large-scale flows that occur in the oceans and atmospheres. In this talk I will highlight my research group’s approach to thinking about some of these problems using experimental, laboratory-scale and/or “reduced-order modeling” as a mechanics-based approach for highlighting significant features of otherwise complex phenomena. In particular, I will (i) illustrate how gradients of salt concentration can drive motion of micron-size particles, which is known as diffusiophoresis, and show how the effect can be used as a means to clean particles from water or enhance transport in porous materials,
(ii) highlight electrokinetic consequences of asymmetry in electrolyte valence including possible implications for improving the energy storage capacity of electrochemical capacitors, and (iii) on length-scales relevant to climate studies, study the development of ice bridges in narrow straits, and show how simplified models can yield insights not easily available in numerical climate models owing to limited resolution. Although the examples appear rather different I will seek to link them through a common research approach.