Eng · ·
Frontier Research and Breakthrough
Issue 1 - 2018
Pitcher plant

Inspired by cactus and pitcher plant, research focuses on novel heat transfer surface engineering

More than 80% of the energy generated in the world is through thermal process and thus the development of new techniques to enhance heat transfer is essential to various industrial settings such as in electronics cooling, power generation, nuclear plant, water desalination, and aerospace. The study of phase change based heat transfer has received extensive attention. Phase change, a classical thermodynamics process involving the phase transitions between liquid-vapor and solid, is the most effective heat transfer mode due to the huge latent heat involved in this process.

Over the past century, extensive efforts have been made in the fundamental understanding and controlling of phase transition processes. However, traditional designs are subject to fundamental constraints imposed by the complexity of the multiscale and multiphase process. Learning from nature provides us important insights and new routes to engineer new materials and devices to achieve advanced functionalities which are not available using the traditional methods.

A research project led by Dr Wang Zuankai, Associate Professor of Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at CityU, is focusing on a general bio-inspired approach to fundamentally change and optimize the phase transitions for enhanced phase change heat transfer by controlling surface morphology and chemistry.

Titled “Bio-inspired Surface Engineering for Phase Change Heat Transfer: From Fundamental Understanding to Practical Applications”, the project consists of four interlinked tasks, revolving around the main question: how to promote or suppress the phase change processes by leveraging the inspirations from nature such as the cactus and pitcher plant.

“We hope this project will help establish important scientific ground for breakthroughs in interfacial sciences and thermal engineering, and hence assist the design of robust techniques to address the grand energy challenge facing us today,” Dr Wang said. Experts from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the University of Hong Kong work closely with him and his team on this project.

The research project has received over $5.4 million from the Collaborative Research Fund (CRF) Scheme under the Research Grants Council (RGC) for three years.

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