Ongoing research projects


Ongoing research projects in iMMC (September 2020)

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 ongoing projects in the division: TFL

Implementation of an incompressible hybrid Eulerian-Lagrangian external flow solver
Researcher: Philippe Billuart
Supervisor(s): Grégoire Winckelmans, Philippe Chatelain

Philippe Billuart is working on the development of a new numerical solver that will be able to solve accurately and efficiently any low Mach number external flows. His research is focusing on the hybrid Eulerian-Lagrangian solvers for the incompressible Navier-Stokes equations. Those approaches are based on the decomposition of the computational domain : an Eulerian grid-based solver is used for the computation of the near-wall region, while a Lagrangian vortex method solves the wake region. Even though the coupling of particle methods with Eulerian solvers is not new, only 3D weak coupling were developed so far. This thesis aims to develop a 3D strong coupling ; i.e. a coupling where the Schwarz iterations are not longer required to ensure consistent boundary conditions on each subdomain. As the Schwarz algorithm becomes expensive in 3D, the computational gain in the developed approach should be very significant.

Comprehensive Wake Simulation for the Analysis of Vortex Interactions with Flexible Devices: Application to Rotorcraft and Formation Flying Aircraft
Researcher: Denis-Gabriel Caprace
Supervisor(s): Grégoire Winckelmans

This research is about developing tools for wake flow analysis, and their application to rotorcraft and aircraft in formation flight.

Researcher: Véronique Dias
Supervisor(s): Hervé Jeanmart

obtained her PhD at UCL in 2003, then worked as Postdoctoral Researcher at the Laboratoire de Physico-Chimie de la Combustion (Faculty of Science). In 2009, she moved to the Institute of Mechanics, Materials and Civil Engineering, and since 2012, she has a position of Research Associate. In 2015, she obtained her HDR (Habilitation à Diriger la Recherche) at the Université of Orléans (France).
Her research interests cover the combustion and kinetics of alternative fuels by the elaboration of kinetic models for hydrocarbons and oxygenated species. These projects in combustion include both experimental and numerical parts. They are contributions to the IEA (International Energy Agency) Implementing Agreement for Energy Conservation and Emission Reduction in Combustion.
In 2016-2018, Véronique Dias also worked on a project on energy storage, and more specifically, in chemical form.
In the BEST project, she holds the management and coordination that support all the activities to be developed during the project by providing the necessary tools, methods and governing structure.

Modelisation and optimization of bird flight
Researcher: Victor Colognesi
Supervisor(s): Philippe Chatelain, Renaud Ronsse

This research project aims at modeling and optimizing bird flight. The goal of this modelization is to get a deep understanding of the mechanisms that govern avian flight and the best way to understand it is to re-create it. That is, the flight will be modeled starting from the given anatomy of a bird and the kinematics will be the result of an optimization process aiming at the most optimal flight.
Compared to other existing studies on the subject of bird flight, this project will follow a "bottom-up" approach, all the way from muscle activation, up to the wing aerodynamics and gait optimization. This approach is necessary to be able to evaluate key values such as metabolic rates, ...
This will allow us to answer a few questions such as :
- What are the mechanisms enabling high efficiency in bird flight ?
- How do we achieve a stable flapping flight ?
This work is purely numerical. The bio-mechanical model of the bird is developed using the multi-body solver Robotran developed at UCL. This bio-mechanical model will be coupled to an aerodynamical model based on a vortex particle-mesh code (VPM) developed at UCL as well.

Energy system modelling
Researcher: Gauthier Limpens
Supervisor(s): Hervé Jeanmart

The transition towards more sustainable, fossil-free energy systems is interlinked with a high penetration of stochastic renewables, such as wind and solar.

Integrating these new energy resources and technologies will lead to profound structural changes in energy systems, such as an increasing need for storage and a radical electrifcation of the heating and mobility sectors.

To capture the increasing complexity of such future energy systems, new

flexible and open-source optimization modelling tools are needed.
In collaboration with EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), we develop EnergyScope, a new open-source energy model for strategic energy planning of urban and national energy systems.

We applied our methodolgy to Switzerland and Belgium. During the end of the thesis, we are developping a transition pathway model representing the transition from 2015 until a long term target (such as 2050) with intermediary steps. The technologies merit order and the total cost of the transition will be key results.
In addition, other studies are under investigation (by master thesis or myself) about more countries, a multi-cells versions, an urban version, model coupling (EnergyScope-DispaSET), create an educational interface for citizens and policy makers or apply the model for uncertainty characterisation.

DNS of reacting particle flows for mesoscale modeling
Researcher: Baptiste Hardy
Supervisor(s): Juray De Wilde, Grégoire Winckelmans

Gas-solid flows are encountered in many natural and industrial phenomena. Fluidized beds are the most well known application of gas-solid reactors in the chemical industry (catalytic cracking, biomass conversion,...).
However, the simulation of such equipments at large scale is still an issue due to the tracking of billions of particles carrying the reaction while interacting with the gas flow. Eulerian-Eulerian models are currently very popular because they describe the solid phase as a continuum, hence drastically lowering the computational cost. Though, these models require closure relations for momentum, heat and mass transfer, often obtained on empirical bases.
The goal of this research is to extract closure laws from Direct Numerical Simulations at particle scale using the Immersed Boundary Method in order to provide new mesoscale models built on physical grounds.

Development of high-fidelity numerical methods for the simulation of the aerothermal ablation of space debris during atmospheric entry
Researcher: David Henneaux
Supervisor(s): Philippe Chatelain

This project, lead in collabaration with the von Karman Institute (VKI) and Cenaero, aims at developing high-fidelity numerical methods for the simulation of the aerothermal ablation of space debris during an atmospheric entry.

The number of space debris orbiting the Earth is becoming increasingly problematic for the integrity of operational satellites and the future access to space. The many space debris mitigation projects currently under study require an accurate prediction of the degradation of these objects when they re-enter the atmosphere in order to comply with the severe re-entry safety requirements.

Dedicated engineering softwares are used to assess the survivability of these debris. However, the correlation-based models implemented in these software lack accuracy and they do not allow to gain insight into the complex flow phenomena taking place near the surface of the body, yet essential for the conception of new satellites designed for demise. That is why CFD methods are needed to study this complex situation. But the methods currently available rely on simplifying assumptions that compromise the reliability of the results.

The objective of this project is to develop new high-fidelity numerical methods able to deal with the presence of the three phases in the same domain and their complex interactions. They will be grouped into the ARGO code under development at CENAERO, VKI, and UCL, which relies on the discontinuous Galerkin method. To do so, a highly-accurate multiphase method coupled with evaporation and surface tension models and based on a sharp interface approach will be employed for the treatment of the gas-liquid interface, while a state of the art melting method accounting for the diffuse character of the liquid-solid interface will be considered. Both methods will be built to work with multicomponent compressible equations. The code will then be validated with experimental data from the VKI Plasmatron facility.

Improvement of gas quality in small-scale biomass gasification facilities through steam injection
Researcher: Arnaud Rouanet
Supervisor(s): Hervé Jeanmart

Biomass, as a renewable fuel, can be converted in a gasifier to produce a synthetic gas that is easier to transport and has a wider range of applications than solid biomass, including bio-fuels, chemicals or energy production.
In order to improve the quality of the produced gases, we will investigate how steam can be used instead of air as the oxidizing agent, to limit the syngas dilution with inert nitrogen and increase its heating value. The project will focus on improving an existing small-scale two-stage gasification unit owned by UCL, on which ad-hoc modifications will be brought and experimental campaigns will be performed.
Theoretical calculations and literature reviews will be performed to confirm and precise the potential for improvement of syngas composition. The design and ideal location of steam injection points will be studied, and experiments will be conducted on the modified gasifier to complement the theoretical calculations. Advanced tools and methods will be used for the characterisation of the syngas composition, to increase the accuracy of the experimental results. Finally, a numerical model of the gasification process will possibly come as complement for a more accurate prediction and confirmation of the experimental results.
This research project will take place in the frame of the project ENERBIO, in collaboration with ULB, UMons and CRA-W.

Robust optimisation of the pathway towards a sustainable whole-energy system: role of synthetic fuels
Researcher: Xavier Rixhon
Supervisor(s): Francesco Contino, Hervé Jeanmart

Securing energy supply while mitigating the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions embodies one of the biggest challenges of today’s -and tomorrow’s- society. In this perspective, renewable energies, mainly wind and solar, will be extensively installed. However, these resources per se present a time and space disparity which generally leads to a mismatch between supply and demand. Therefore, to harvest their maximum potentials, the energy system shall become more flexible, especially through the storage of this renewable electricity. The integration of electro-fuels seems to be a promising solution. They could play the role of long-term storage of electricity and energy carriers to supply other sectors (e.g. heat or mobility). To address the question of the role of these fuels in the energy transition, a multi-energy and multi-sector model, Energy Scope TD (ESTD), will be further developed. It optimizes the design of an energy system to minimize its costs and emissions. Defining an energy transition strategy for a large-scale system, such as a country, implies decisions with long-term impacts (20 to 50 years) and, hence, many uncertainties. To perform the uncertainty quantification (UQ), ESTD will be complemented with a surrogate-assisted UQ framework. The perspective of this project is then to provide the designers and the decision-makers with optimized energy system designs, including the knowledge we have on the uncertainties, in order to pave a robust pathway towards sustainability.