Precourt Institute for Energy
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Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsComputing and data for energy, health and engineering
Challenges in energy sciences, green technology, transportation, and in general, engineering design and prototyping are routinely tackled using numerical simulations and physical testing. Computations barely feasible two decades ago on the largest available supercomputers, have now become routine using turnkey commercial software running on a laptop. Demands on the analysis of new engineering systems are becoming more complex and multidisciplinary in nature, but exascale-ready computers are on the horizon. What will be the next frontier? Can we channel this enormous power into an increased ability to simulate and, ultimately, to predict, design and control? In my opinion two roadblocks loom ahead: the development of credible models for increasingly complex multi-disciplinary engineering applications and the design of algorithms and computational strategies to cope with real-world uncertainty.
My research objective is to pursue concerted innovations in physical modeling, numerical analysis, data fusion, probabilistic methods, optimization and scientific computing to fundamentally change our present approach to engineering simulations relevant to broad areas of fluid mechanics, transport phenomena and energy systems. The key realization is that computational engineering has largely ignored natural variability, lack of knowledge and randomness, targeting an idealized deterministic world. Embracing stochastic scientific computing and data/algorithms fusion will enable us to minimize the impact of uncertainties by designing control and optimization strategies that are robust and adaptive. This goal can only be accomplished by developing innovative computational algorithms and new, physics-based models that explicitly represent the effect of limited knowledge on the quantity of interest.
I consider the classical boundaries between disciplines outdated and counterproductive in seeking innovative solutions to real-world problems. The design of wind turbines, biomedical devices, jet engines, electronic units, and almost every other engineering system requires the analysis of their flow, thermal, and structural characteristics to ensure optimal performance and safety. The continuing growth of computer power and the emergence of general-purpose engineering software has fostered the use of computational analysis as a complement to experimental testing in multiphysics settings. Virtual prototyping is a staple of modern engineering practice! I have designed a new undergraduate course as an introduction to Computational Engineering, covering theory and practice across multidisciplanary applications. The emphasis is on geometry modeling, mesh generation, solution strategy and post-processing for diverse applications. Using classical flow/thermal/structural problems, the course develops the essential concepts of Verification and Validation for engineering simulations, providing the basis for assessing the accuracy of the results.