University of Notre Dame College of Engineering

Small Scale Transport

Research Laboratory

RESEARCH

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In the SST Lab, we study fundamentals and applications of small scale (millimeters to nanometers) charge, fluid, and energy transport and their many combinations. We approach these topics theroretically, computationally, and experimentally, ranging from basic phenomena to technology development. Below are overviews of our interests and current activities. Check out the Go Research Group for information on each students' individual project.

Plasmas & Gas Discharges

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One of our favorite topics in the SST Lab is plasmas or gas discharges. Plasma and plasma-related technologies have had a huge impact on society. They form the backbone of computer chip fabrication, are essential in critical fields of chemical analysis, are ubiquitous in consumer prducts (lighting and plasma T.V.s), and are growing into new fields such as environmental monitoring and biological remediation. In the SST Lab, we look at a number of topics in atmospheric-pressure plasmas, including new techniques to generate plasmas, the fundamentals of surface and emission phenomena, and how plasmas interact with liquids. Our approaches include developing theory, using particle simulations, and experimental measurements, and applications we are pursuing include electrohydrodynamics (or ionic winds), synthesis of nanomaterials, and direct electrical-to-thermal energy conversion.

Sprays and Microfluidics

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In the SST Lab, we have a lot of interest in developing new technologies for chemical and biological analysis, and much of our interest has focused on microfluidics and mass spectrometry. Microfluidic devices can be used to manipulate small amounts of fluid (~0.01-1 mL) at scales from 100 nm to 1 mm. We use surface acoustic wave (SAW) techniques to manipulate fluids at these scales. SAW devices use the electromechanical coupling of piezoelectric materials to generate surface waves on piezoelectric crystal. When the wave interacts with a liquid, it can pump, mix, and spray the liquid. We also look at electrical actuation of fluids to form electrosprays, or the spray of micron-sized droplets by the application of high electric fields. We consider both DC and AC phenomena using high-speed imaging and electrical measurements. We use both of these techniques as ionization sources for mass spectrometry and other applications.

Energy and Heat Transfer

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Heat transfer and energy applications are a big interest in the SST Lab. Currently we are investigating building energy efficiency and harvesting the heat from computers to heat buildings, thermal transport at the nanoscale in novel materials such as graphene, and converting heat directly to electricity using microdischarges.