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Phase-change heat transfer

Phase-change phenomena including boiling, evaporation, condensation and icing are key processes in numerous engineering applications such as thermal management of electronics, power generation, building HVAC and desalination. 

We will develop metrological methods with high spatial and temporal resolution to probe thermal transport near the three-phase contact region. Such capabilities will aid us in discovering avenues to approach theoretical thermal transport limits. We will also develop novel and scalable materials and structures across various length scales to achieve high heat transfer performance. These efforts will result in new methods for thermal management, anti-icing, water harvesting and energy-efficient buildings.

Related publications

  1. H.J. Cho, D.J. Preston, Y. Zhu, E.N. Wang, "Nanoengineered Materials for Liquid-Vapour Phase-Change Heat Transfer", Nature Reviews Materials, 2, p. 16092, 2016. 

  2. Y. Zhu, D.S. Antao, K.-H. Chu, S. Chen, T.J. Hendricks, T.J. Zhang, E.N. Wang, "Surface Structure Enhanced Microchannel Flow Boiling", Journal of Heat Transfer, 138(9), p. 091501, 2016.

  3. L. Zhang*, Y. Zhu*, Z. Lu, L. Zhao, K.R. Bagnall, S.R. Rao, E.N. Wang, "Characterization of thin film evaporation in micropillar wicks using micro-Raman spectroscopy", Applied Physics Letters, 113, p. 163701, 2018.


Addressing thermal challenges in battery

Future generation of high-energy-density and fast-charging batteries promises to enable renewable energy technologies and zero-emission electric vehicles. One of the central challenges, besides material innovation, is the increasing heat generation and temperature heterogeneity, which accelerates capacity fade and poses safety concerns. 

We aim to systematically study thermal processes in energy storage systems, from microscopic thermal characterization for mechanistic understanding to device level electrochemical-thermal co-engineering. We will investigate the effects of temperature heterogeneity on battery kinetics and thermodynamics, develop platforms for battery internal temperature mapping, in-operando thermal diagnostic tools, and advanced battery thermal management via convection and phase-change. These efforts will aid the development of future generation batteries with high performance and safe operation.

Related publications

  1. Y. Zhu*, J. Xie*, A. Pei, B. Liu, Y. Wu, D. Lin, J. Li, H. Wang, H. Chen, J. Xu, A. Yang, C.-L. Wu, H. Wang, W. Chen, Y. Cui, "Fast lithium growth and short circuit induced by localized-temperature hotspots in lithium batteries", Nature Communications, 10(1), p. 2067, 2019.

  2. Y. Liu, Y. Zhu, Y. Cui, "Challenges and opportunities for fast charging lithium–ion batteries", Nature Energy, 4, p. 540-550, 2019.


Wetting and mass transport for efficient catalysis

Electro- and photo-catalysis are critical processes to address urgent challenges such as reducing the acceleration of carbon dioxide and developing clean energy technologies. While significant attention has been focused on designing advanced catalysts, efficient mass transport of reactant to and release of product from the catalyst remain a challenge and are much less explored.

A common feature in phase-change heat transfer (boiling, condensation) and catalysis is that  transport and interaction of multiple phases (gas, liquid, and solid) play an important role in the overall performance. Inspired by insights from phase change heat transfer, we will investigate the effect of bubble dynamics (affected by wettability, micro/nanostructuring) on catalytic performance. We will apply the understanding to design surfaces with optimized mass transport, and high-performing catalysis devices inspired by thin-film evaporation and flow boiling. 

Related publications

  1. J. Li, Y. Zhu, W. Chen, Z. Lu, J. Xu, A. Pei, Y. Peng, Z. Zhang, S. Chu, Y. Cui, "Breathing Mimicking Electrocatalysis for Oxygen Evolution and Reduction", Joule, 3(2), p. 557-569, 2019. 

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