Thermal Fluid and Energy Systems

The Thermal Fluid and Energy Systems group seeks to understand the impact of fundamental thermodynamic, heat transport and fluid mechanic phenomena in a range of engineered systems. Our research includes a diverse array of experimental and numerical simulation work to solve problems related to energy storage, conversion and utilization; the energy-water-CO2 nexus; and chemical processing applications. Core thrust areas include energy storage and conversion, environmental processes and energy efficiency, and sustainable transportation and fuels.

Research Faculty

Gregory Bogin Jr.

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Research Group:
SPARX (Simulation of Multi-Physics and Analysis of Reacting Flows and Explosions)

  • Experimental validation of kinetic ignition models for diesel and biodiesel model compounds
  • Computational fluid dynamics modeling for underground mines
  • Computational fluid dynamics modeling of fuels for advanced combustion engines (FACE fuels) in internal combustion engines

 

Robert Braun

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Research Group: Advanced Energy Systems

  • High-temperature fuel cells (solid oxide and protonic ceramics)
  • Electrolyzers for hydrogen and synthetic fuel production
  • Reversible fuel cell systems for energy storage
  • Advanced power cycles, including supercritical CO2 Brayton cycles
  • Thermal and thermochemical energy storage
  • Concentrating solar power

Steven DeCaluwe

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Research Group: CORES (Colorado Reacting Flows, Electrochemistry and Surface Science)

  • Simultaneous consideration of reacting flows, electrochemistry, and surface science to understand and improve clean energy and clean water devices
  • Combination of operando measurements and numerical simulations to understand:
    • The influence of conductive polymer microstructure and distribution in polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells
    • Degradation in Li-ion batteries via growth and evolution of the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI)
    • The impact of novel chemistries in advanced “beyond Li-ion” batteries, including lithium-sulfur, lithium-O2, and silicon anodes
    • Degradation due to mineral scaling in water desalination systems

Veronica Eliasson

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Research Group: Shock and Impact Lab

  • Experimental mechanics
  • Shock and blast wave dynamics
  • Fracture mechanics
  • Medium to high strain rate impacts
  • Ultra-high-speed visualization techniques

Greg Jackson

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Research Group: Jackson Research Group

  • High-temperature thermal and thermochemical energy storage
  • Solid oxide electrochemical cells, materials and systems
  • High-temperature catalysis
  • Reactive flow modeling for heterogeneous processes

Robert Kee

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  • Modeling and simulation of thermal and chemically reacting fluid flow with applications to combustion, electochemistry and materials manufacturing
  • Clean energy, including fuel cells, photovoltaics and advanced combustion
  • Catalytic-combustion and water-mist flame suppression
  • Design, optimization and control of chemical-vapor-deposition processes with applications ranging from thin-film photovoltaics to CMOS semiconductor devices

Jason Porter

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Research Group: Mines Optical Diagnostics for Energy Systems (MODES) Lab

  • Infrared operando measurements of electrolyte performance in rechargeable batteries
  • Laser-based imaging of diesel spray atomization
  • Measuring and modeling heat transfer in fiber blanket insulation
  • Real-time optical diagnostics for manufacturing electrochemical devices

Neal Sullivan

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Research Group: Colorado Fuel Cell Center

  • Experimental characterization of ceramic electrochemical devices
    • Solid-oxide fuel cells for efficient electricity generation
    • Electrolyzers for hydrogen production and energy storage
    • Electro-catalysis for fuels synthesis
  • Scale up of next-generation materials for solid-oxide fuel cells
  • Integrated kW-scale fuel-cell systems

Paulo Cesar Tabares-Velasco

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Research Group: Advanced Multiscale Building Energy Research (AMBER)

  • Building and campus level energy simulation and optimization
  • Thermal energy storage
  • Green roofs
  • Heat transfer applied to buildings
  • Integrating buildings with the smart grid

Nils Tilton

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Research Group: Computational Fluid Dynamics Group

  • Theoretical and computational fluid mechanics with an emphasis on hydrodynamic stability and flow through porous media
  • Analytical and numerical models of membrane filtration, carbon dioxide sequestration and flow control for drag reduction
  • Numerical modeling using spectral, fractional step and multi-domain methods
  • Analytical modeling using perturbation methods and volume-averaged models of flow through porous media

Labs and Capabilities

Advanced Multiscale Building Energy Research (AMBER) Lab

The Advanced Multiscale Building Energy Research (AMBER) Lab consists of a 16 x 18 x 12 ft3 state-of-the-art environmental chamber with its own air handling unit (AHU) that supplies filtered and conditioned air that can be used for future laboratory validations. The chamber serves as a piece of equipment that provides specific environmental conditions necessary for ventilation experiments, indoor air quality assessments, thermal performance of wall assemblies, and environmental perceptions of occupants. Some of the unique characteristics of the chamber are:

  • Supply airflow rate range: 50–900 cfm
  • Percent of outdoor air: 0–100 %
  • Hydronic wall system: 1.6 kW glycol wall on one 18-ft walls with its own dedicated cooling and heating system
  • Control system: able to communicate with MATLAB and EnergyPlus via Modbus RTU communication
  • Chamber: controlled with a 6-core workstation
  • Seven-speed ceiling fan: bidirectional flow (up and down) and remote control

The chamber is equipped with laboratory-rated sensors to measure chamber air temperature, relative humidity, air-flow rate, and the chamber wall surface temperature. Chamber control system can be constant, or one can dynamically change these variables following a programmed profile or numerical calculations. The chamber also has separate data acquisition (DAQ) for collecting all data related to heat flux and temperature measurements. The AMBER Lab has more than 50 thermistors, 8 hot-sphere omnidirectional anemometers, 4 heat flux meters, 2 infrared temperature sensors, 1 infrared camera that can be controlled remotely, and 8+ plug load meters.

Contact: Dr. Paulo Tabares-Velasco (tabares@mines.edu)
Website: amber.mines.edu/lab

Colorado Fuel Cell Center

The Colorado Fuel Cell Center (CFCC) develops electrochemical devices to address our nation’s needs in electricity generation and energy storage. Batteries, fuel cells, electrolyzers and membrane reactors are all active topics of research and development. The CFCC has equipment and capabilities in the following areas (see cfcc.mines.edu/capabilities for complete details and specifications).

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC)

  • SOFC component fabrication
  • SOFC testing and characterization
  • Separated-anode reactor
  • System integration: kW-scale SOFCs
  • Proton-conducting ceramics

Fuel Processing

  • High-temperature flow reactor
  • Catalytic stagnation-flow reactor

Modeling

  • Detailed kinetic modeling
  • SOFC modeling
  • Partial oxidation and catalytic combustion modeling

 

CFCC researchers also use other facilities on campus, including

Contact: Dr. Neal Sullivan (nsulliva@mines.edu)
Website: cfcc.mines.edu

Energy Conversion and Storage Lab

The Energy Conversion and Storage Lab provides fabrication and testing equipment for a range of systems related to clean energy and water. Lab capabilities include:

  • Spin coating
  • Controlled temperature and humidity chamber for device testing at precisely controlled conditions
  • Controlled environment furnaces for heating under controlled gas composition
  • Low-oxygen and low-humidity glove box for battery testing
  • Quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D) for highly resolved mass uptake and viscoelastic properties
  • Electrochemical test equipment for batteries and fuel cells

The Energy Conversion and Storage Lab is shared by two research groups: CORES and the Jackson Research Group. Researchers also use shared capabilities located across campus, including the Rocky Mountain Center for Environmental XPS (https://www.mines.edu/exps), the Mines Electron Microscopy Lab (https://emlab.mines.edu), and the Mines NEXUS facilities (mines.edu/nexus).

Contacts:
Dr. Steven DeCaluwe (decaluwe@mines.edu) – CORES research group (cores-research.mines.edu)
Dr. Greg Jackson (gsjackso@mines.edu) – Jackson research group

High-Pressure Flow Reactor Lab

The high-pressure entrained-flow reactor is a laboratory-scale research vessel designed for coal, biomass, and solid waste gasification or combustion. The reactor can reach a temperature of 1650 °C and pressures to 50 atm. At the heart of the reactor is a 1 m long, 5 cm diameter silicon carbide heated tube. There are four heating zones along the length of the reactor providing uniform heating of the SiC tube. Nine optical ports provide access for optical diagnostics at three axial locations.

The gasifier is equipped for solid (fine particulates), liquid, or gas injection. The gasifier is capable of co-injecting steam, oxygen, and other gases with liquid or solid feedstocks. Gases are extracted from the bottom of the reactor and analyzed using gas chromatography and FTIR spectrometry. Unreacted particles are filtered from the exhaust stream for characterization and determining carbon balance. The gasifier facility also includes equipment for grinding, sieving, and injecting fine particulates.

The gasifier is ideal for characterizing carbonaceous materials for gasification, testing syngas processing technologies (e.g., hydrogen separation and sulfur removal), and studying gasification kinetics. The compact size of the reactor reduces operating costs and allows for rapid testing of diverse feedstocks over a large range of operating conditions. In addition, the reactor is suitable for demonstrating optical diagnostics in the harsh environment typical of gasification.

Contact: Dr. Jason Porter (jporter@mines.edu)
Website: modes.mines.edu/facilities/

Optical Diagnostics Lab

The Optical Diagnostics Lab is a 2100 ft2 space that houses laser diagnostic equipment, optical tables, burners, combustion chambers, furnaces, fuel injection pressure vessels, and pulsed and short-pulsed lasers. The lab also has several research-grade cameras and a host of optical detectors, optics, and filters as well as a variety of spectrometers, detectors, optics, and other laser sources. To support research, the lab is outfitted with chemical hoods, liquid and gas storage, a wet lab, and a controlled low-humidity and oxygen glove box. Specific equipment includes:

Analytical equipment

  • Keithley picoammeter/voltage supply
  • Gas chromatography
  • Micro GC
  • Mass spectrometer
  • Potentiostat/galvanostat

High-speed data acquisition equipment

  • National Instruments 8 simultaneous analog input, 2 MS/s/ch
  • Gage CobraMax 4 GS/s, 2-channel, 8-bit digitizer

Optical sources

  • Continuum Nd:Yag Leopard picosecond pulsed laser
  • Nd:Yag nanosecond pulsed laser
  • Nd:Yag CW laser
  • CO2 CW laser
  • HeNe laser (IR & Vis)
  • Argon-Ion laser CW
  • Deuterium, halogen, tungsten, and xenon lamps.

Optical cells/accessories

  • Heated liquid cell (25 °C to 200 °C)
  • Variable pathlength liquid cells (KBr, CaF2, UV quartz windows)
  • Long pathlength gas cells
  • High-pressure optical cells
  • Attenuated total reflection (ATR) stage (diamond and germanium)
  • Temperature-controlled diamond ATR

Optical diagnostic capabilities

  • Ballistic imaging
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • FTIR spectroscopy (gases and liquids)
  • UV/VIS spectroscopy
  • LIF, PLIF, Mie scattering for droplet size
  • Spray imaging
  • Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS)
  • Tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy
  • Cavity ringdown absorption spectroscopy

Contact: Dr. Jason Porter (jporter@mines.edu)
Website: modes.mines.edu/facilities/

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