Nature Inspired Engineering: An innovative approach to material and process design

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17 October 2018 19:00 - 20:30
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Nature Inspired Engineering: An innovative approach to material and process design

Speaker: Victor Francia

The Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering

Department of Chemical Engineering, University College London,

The Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering, CNIE, at University College London draws lessons from nature to create new materials and technology targeting major challenges in water, energy, healthcare and living space. The CNIE pursues innovation by uncovering the fundamental mechanisms underlying optimal solutions and universal features in nature. Rather than simply mimicking nature out of context, it creates artificial systems - desalination membranes, fuel cells, catalysts, adaptive materials, structured flows – endowed with the key attributes of natural models - lungs, trees, bacterial communities – that are responsible for desirable features such as scalability, robustness, material and energy efficiency.

Part of the research group involved with dynamic self-organisation which takes its inspiration from self-assembly mechanisms in nature e.g. pattern formation, fractal growth of bacterial colonies, snow, to engineer new responsive materials and complex flows. Our speaker works on the creation of structured granular flows for the intensification of industrial processes in the consumer goods, chemical and energy sectors.

Granular media create complex spatial patterns when excited by a dynamic energy source. Surface waves e.g. stripes, squares, hexagons, can be initiated in shallow layers by mechanical vibration, but collapse in large vibro-assisted beds due to the energy dissipated in inelastic collisions. Nature offers us many examples where macroscopic granular patterns follow the action of particle-fluid forces in sediments (image a). CNIE, have demonstrated that the use of oscillatory flows instead of mechanical action creates a better coupling between the motion of the solids and the perturbation. In quasi-2D fluidised beds, the use of an oscillation at specific conditions allows the propagation of surface waves created in shallow layers Image b), into macroscopic ordered bubble flows i(image c). The oscillatory flow stabilises an inherently chaotic system impeding the coalescence of bubbles with a set of intermittent dense particle clusters that redirect the gas flow and reduce the long-range circulation of solids. This results in a predictable flow where bubbles organise in a triangular lattice of given wavelength and angle. In contrast to conventional fluidization, the flow structure is fully scalable and provides an unprecedented level of control over bubble size and solid mixing, thus defining a new methodology sitting between fixed and fluidised beds, “dynamically structured fluidised beds” where the flow structure can be externally controlled.

Bio:

Dr Victor Francia is a chemical engineer from Universidad de Salamanca, Spain, with qualifications in environmental science and humanitarian engineering. Before moving to academia he worked as an R&D manager (Procter & Gamble, UK) and in management of seawater desalinization facilities (Engineer, Acciona, Spain). Victor obtained a doctorate in engineering, EngD, working for Procter & Gamble at the University of Birmingham researching the agglomeration of granular detergents during spray drying working in collaboration with the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and Imperial College London. He joined Imperial as visiting researcher in 2012/13 on multiphase flow modelling and worked in one of the start-up companies spun from the school of chemical engineering (Hexxcell Ltd. UK) consulting for the oil & gas industry on the optimization of crude oil refineries for ExxonMobil. In 2016, Victor joined the Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering at University College London to work on dynamic self-organization of granular matter. His focus lays in the intensification of gas-solid operations using vortex and oscillatory flows and the development of smart materials in collaboration with Prof Miodownic (Institute of Making).

Speaker(s)

After a career in industry Dr Victor Francia moved to academia. Joining the Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering at University College London in 2016, his focus is the intensification of gas-solid operations using vortex and oscillatory flows and the development of smart materials.

Address

EDF Energy
Barnett Way
Barnwood
Gloucester
GL4 3RS
United Kingdom

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