A grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will allow a collaborative team of researchers from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to produce better modeling of reactive gas transport.
UTC will receive $562,497 from the DOE’s Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR) initiative for “First Principles Multiphase Modeling of Mesoscale Gas Transport in Porous Reactive Systems.”
The Department of Energy recently announced $37 million in funding for 52 projects to 44 institutions to build research capacity, infrastructure and expertise at institutions historically underrepresented in DOE’s Office of Science portfolio. Through the FAIR initiative, the Office of Science supports mutually beneficial relationships between minority-serving or emerging research institutions and partnering institutions to perform research in applied mathematics, biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, geoscience, isotope research, materials science and physics.
“FAIR is an essential capacity-building initiative that will broaden the impact of DOE and the Office of Science in tackling critical and pressing scientific questions and challenges,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement. “To reach our scientific goals, we need all voices represented at the table, including those who have been historically excluded from critical scientific conversations. This funding will help academic institutions expand their research portfolios and spur future scientific discovery, creating a top-notch workforce to advance American competitiveness.”
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Murat Barisik, who joined the UTC faculty in 2022, is the grant’s principal investigator. UTC Assistant Professor Reetesh Ranjan is one of the co-investigators, while Dr. Ramanan Sankaran leads Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s three-person team.
“This is a great, collaborative team,” Barisik said. “Hopefully, the grant money will result in improved infrastructure and provide support for our graduate students. It is important for UTC to produce more master’s and Ph.D. students, and this money will create those opportunities.”
Barisik explained that this research is about better modeling reactive gas transport.
“There is a certain manufacturing technique to produce high-end extreme condition materials, specifically carbon fiber-added composite ceramics,” he said. “These kinds of materials are very expensive due to the material costs and it also takes forever to produce them. While this manufacturing process is heavily dominated by gas surface chemistry interaction, it is not well resolved. The safe bet is to produce it slowly, and that increases the time and the cost.
“If we can optimize this, we can have a better procedure to produce those special materials.”
In simpler terms, the research conducted during the three-year grant period will look at how things move and change in a particular gas environment seen in many applications—such as protecting spacecraft from heat. Understanding and modeling these processes is essential for making better materials and devices.
The study focuses on different scales, which means looking at things from tiny to bigger sizes. Barisik said that because of the extensive range of sizes involved, they would use a unique approach instead of a conventional way of computing.
“We will bring a combination of surface chemical reaction calculations coming from quantum calculations, then molecular level calculations for gas dynamics, and then volume average techniques or classical competition of fluid mechanics for the transport of the gas through a confinement,” he said. “Combining all these different scales requires a combination of different techniques, and that requires this kind of multi-scale approach.”
After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, Barisik first came to the U.S. to pursue his doctoral degree at Old Dominion University in Virginia, receiving a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. He also did postdoc research at Old Dominion before spending one year as a research assistant professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
After receiving the “Brain Circulation Scheme” award from the European Union Marie-Curie COFUND program, he spent eight years in his native Turkey as an associate professor at the Izmir Institute of Technology before joining the UTC faculty.
What brought him back to the U.S.—and specifically to UTC? Family, he said.
“After moving to Virginia, Texas and Turkey, we are happy to settle down here,” Barisik said. “UTC is a great fit because of its focus on improving research opportunities and because my wife is from Kentucky. We are close to some very good universities and laboratories that we can learn from and collaborate with—and we are also close to family.”