Ongoing research projects


Ongoing research projects in iMMC (March 2023)

This a short description of research projects which are presently under progress in iMMC.
Hereunder, you may select one research direction or choose to apply another filter:

Biomedical engineering

Computational science

Civil and environmental engineering

Dynamical and electromechanical systems


Fluid mechanics

Processing and characterisation of materials

Chemical engineering

Solid mechanics

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List of projects related to: numerical simulation, experimental models

Crane dynamis (CRAMIC)
Researcher: Olivier Lantsoght
Supervisor(s): Paul Fisette

Historically, the cranes of the ports were assumed to be static or cyclical but, because of the increases in speed and loads, they are becoming more and more dynamic. As a result, load on the rail tracks is increasing and negative effects occurs (such as uncontrolled motion, track deformation…). As one of the partners of CRAMIC global project, through multibody and granular analysis of the system crane-railway.
On one side, we focus on identifying and studying the present dynamic effects, participating in developing new track technologies and helping monitoring cranes to organize a future maintenance. On the other side, we focus on the interaction between sleepers and ballast, participating in creating new sleeper geometries.

Modeling and simulation of water electrolysis.
Researcher: Christos Georgiadis
Supervisor(s): Joris Proost

The main objective of our work is to develop models for the simulation of 2-phase flows through electrodes. After the initial validation of the model, we will perform a detailed analysis of the flow and electrochemical properties of the system, in conjunction with experimental data. The final objective will be the design of optimal electrode geometries for water electrolysis.

Efficient and scalable frameworks for PDE simulations
Researcher: Thomas Gillis
Supervisor(s): Philippe Chatelain

focuses his research on the development of efficient and scalable computational framework for the simulation of 3D PDEs on massively parallel and heterogeneous architectures.

Researcher: Audrey Favache
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

obtained a PhD degree in the domain of process control in 2009 at Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium), after having graduated there as chemical engineer in 2005. Since then, she is working as a "senior" researcher on several applied research projects in collaboration with the industry in the domain of mechanics of materials. More particularly, she is interested in the link between the mechanical properties of the individual components of a complex system and the global mechanical response of this system. She applied this approach to the framework of tribology and contact mechanics for understanding the scratch resistance of coatings and multilayered systems. Her work covers both experimental aspects and finite element simulations.

Morphological impact of dam-flushing
Researcher: Robin Meurice
Supervisor(s): Sandra Soares Frazao

An important number of dams worldwide face sedimentation issues, leading to a decrease in their reservoir capacity and hence, many difficulties to properly satisfy to their different functions (e.g. water distribution, flood management, hydroelectricity production). To overcome these problems, we can proceed to dam flushing operations, transporting huge amounts of sediment downstream of the dam. Nevertheless, these operations can be harmful to the environment, the living organisms and the human infrastructures if not properly handled. For that reason, this thesis aims at developing a numerical model capable of accurately predicting the sediment deposition downstream of a dam after flushing operations. In order to do so, several mathematical models shall be implemented, among which a two-phase two-layer model, and laboratory experiments shall be run. The numerical model will then be confronted with the data collected from the experiments. Finally, the model will be tested with real-case data collected in situ near Lyon, France.

AI-based control policies towards efficient collective behaviours of flow agents and their application to fish schooling
Researcher: Denis Dumoulin
Supervisor(s): Philippe Chatelain

The principal objective is to shed light on mechanisms allowing anguiliform swimmers to swim very efficiently either on their own or in group.
Simulations rely on an unsteady panel method with vortex shedding and on reinforcement learning.

Seismic performance and residual displacements of reinforced concrete walls detailed with iron-based shape memory alloys
Researcher: Ryan Hoult
Supervisor(s): Joao Saraiva Esteves Pacheco De Almeida

Most structures built to withstand earthquakes currently rely on reinforced concrete walls that concentrate damage in a region, typically at the base of those walls. While this can prevent collapses and save lives, it often damages the building to such an extent that it must be torn down after a quake. The EU-funded SMA-RC-Walls aims to test walls with shape-memory alloy (SMA) rebars, which offer the potential to return to their original form after seismic demands, and hence prevent damage and avoid permanent tilting of structures. The researchers will conduct experiments using iron-based SMA reinforcement in the boundary regions of concrete walls as a substitute material for the typical steel rebars. The goal is to contribute to a more robust and resilient building stock internationally, and to provide guidance for seismic design and assessment with this novel technology.

Carnot batteries as effective sector-coupling systems for heat and power: techno-economic analysis and robust optimisation
Researcher: Antoine Laterre
Supervisor(s): Francesco Contino

The first concepts of Carnot batteries appeared in the early 2010s. These systems propose to use excess energy from the grid to produce heat and store it in thermal form. This energy can then be returned in the form of electricity through thermal cycles. By their very nature, these “batteries” allow for efficient coupling between electrical and thermal systems, which is an asset regarding the challenges prescribed by the energy transition. For example, they can take advantage of waste heat (< 100°C) to increase their power output to power input ratio to values above 100%. The heat they generate can also be used for other purposes (e.g. industrial).

Theoretical studies to date have shown that this technology has great potential for development. However, they also reveal that the performance can deteriorate severely when certain parameters deviate slightly from the optimal design conditions (i.e. variation of waste heat temperature, of isentropic efficiencies, etc.). In order to evaluate their real potential, this project proposes to integrate, by simulation means, the uncertainty dimension on these parameters to quantify more efficiently the sensitivity of Carnot batteries to them.

To identify the designs that are robust to uncertainty and to evaluate the actual techno-economic performance of these systems, Uncertainty Quantification and Robust Optimisation (optimisation under uncertainty) techniques will be applied. Using metrics such as LCOS, we will assess with more certainty the potential of this technology compared to other storage systems, such as batteries.

A phase-field discrete elements model applied to granular material
Researcher: Alexandre Sac-Morane
Supervisor(s): Hadrien Rattez

The main goal of the research project is to combine a phase-field modelization with a discrete elements modelization. This new approach is then applied to granular material to investigate the effects of the environment. A model is built and will be calibrated by experiments.

Influence of soil saturation on earthen embankments failure by overtopping
Researcher: Nathan Delpierre
Supervisor(s): Sandra Soares Frazao, Hadrien Rattez

In the current context of climate change and aging infrastructure, the failure of earthen dikes is becoming a
critical issue. Dikes have an essential protection role in flood defense, coastal protection or for the storage of
mining industry waste. The objective of the research is to develop and validate a simulation model to take into
account the effect of
saturation of the dike material on its stability when it is subjected to overtopping flows, which alone cause 34%
of failures (Costa, 1985). For this purpose, a complete simulation model will be developed, taking into account
the internal and external flows as well as the erosion and the consequences on the evolution of the stability of
the dam. The originality of this project lies in the multidisciplinary approach that takes into account the
evolution of the dike both from a hydraulic and hydrogeological point of view (water content, flow velocity and
surface erosion) but also from the point of view of the geomechanics and thus of the intrinsic stability of the
dike. Laboratory experiments will be carried out in order to validate the model experimentally. At this level, the
novelty brought by this project is the control of the evolution of the water content of the dike in real time with
pressure gauges and tensiometers. The acquired data will allow to calibrate the model and to confirm the key
role of the initial saturation in the dam failure.
Finally, based on the critical characteristics defined in terms of dike saturation, a study on large-scale
monitoring techniques will be carried out. In particular, the possibility of using technologies such as
photogrammetry or GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) to determine the degree of saturation of a soil will be
investigated in the context of dike monitoring.

2-phase CFD simulations of electrolyte-bubble interactions during alkaline water electrolysis
Researcher: Kevin Van Droogenbroek
Supervisor(s): Joris Proost

In today’s world, concern is growing about the future of energy. Despite very ambitious international climate goals by 2050, global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions keep increasing. In order to tackle this problem, hydrogen (H2) seems to be the right solution since it is a way to produce, store, move and use energy in a clean way. However, 95% of the actual hydrogen production is made of grey hydrogen, e.g. H2 produced from fossil energies, which leads to high CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. One way to decarbonise this energy vector is to produce green hydrogen by means of renewable energies (solar panels, wind turbines, etc). This is where my research project funded by the Walloon region comes in, focusing on the production of green hydrogen by alkaline water electrolysis (AWE).

In general, AWE is characterised by the use of two planar electrodes separated by a certain distance and operating in a liquid alkaline electrolyte solution (e.g. KOH, potassium hydroxide). However, the efficiency of the process can be improved by the use of 3D electrodes in a zero-gap cell configuration. This configuration is the one that will be used in the scope of this research and it is depicted in Figure 1. The chemical reactions taking place at the cathode and at the anode are also highlighted.

More specifically, the work will consist in the fluid mechanical modeling of liquid and gaseous flows within alkaline electrolysis cells filled with 3D porous structures. The study of liquid electrolyte flow and of gaseous hydrogen bubble formation and escape will allow to optimise the performance of the electrolyser. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is a powerful numerical tool that will be used during this project to determine the optimal flow parameters required to homogenise the electrolyte flow (to take advantage of the full specific area provided by the electrodes) while favouring hydrogen bubbles removal from the electrolysis cell (to avoid bubble entrapment within the complex 3D structure).

As an example, the added value of a numerical simulation for a better understanding of the electrolyte flux distribution within an empty cell (e.g. without 3D structure) is shown in Figure 2. The velocity field of the electrolyte (in m/s) was simulated on the OpenFOAM software. Note that the geometry of the cell corresponds to the one of the pilot electrolyser used at UCLouvain (see Figure 3).

Nouvelles topologies et stratégies de commande de machines autoportantes à suspension électrodynamique
Researcher: Adrien Robert
Supervisor(s): Bruno Dehez

A fully passively bearingless motor using electrodynamic suspension have been developped by Joachim Van Verdegheme and Bruno Dehez. During my master thesis, I modeled the behaviour of the machine using ferromagnetic materials which add variation of the inductances coefficients. These materials should increase the perfomances of the motor, and add new possibilities of control. My thesis aims to find the best way to add these ferromagnetic materials in the design of the motor and take advantage of these new control possibilities to improve the machines performances.