Xerox fellows set up chamber to test reactive mixing when fluids encounter an obstacle

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 Jinge Wang, at left, and Rony Colon explain their work on a chamber to test reactive mixing in fluids to Nick Vamivakas, associate professor of quantum optics and quantum physics, at the Xerox Engineering Research Fellows poster session.

When ocean currents flow past an island, they create a wake, or “slow zone,” on the island’s backside.

Satellite photos show this is where plankton often congregrates in huge blooms.

Even at a much smaller scale, when reactive mixing occurs in a porous medium – when fluid flows through a pile of sand, for example -- it appears that the slow zones behind grains of sand are where “a reaction can anchor and keep burning out from there,” says Assistant Professor Douglas Kelley.

A better understanding of the mechanics of this phenomenon could have applications not only for growing plankton, but also for carbon sequestration and enhanced oil recovery, Kelley says.

This summer, Xerox fellows Rony Colon and Jinge Wang gave Kelley’s lab a good start on setting up experiments to test this theory.

First, the rising juniors were handed a “quick and dirty” prototype of an experimental chamber to replicate fluid flows, which another student had prepared last spring. Working with another member of Kelley’s lab, Colon and Wang tweaked the design, then spent a few weeks machining the parts in the fabrication shop at Rettner Hall.

Once the chamber was assembled, they conducted particle tracking – running fluid with trace particles past an obstacle while cameras recorded it all, and special custom-made software connected each bright dot reflected by the particles, in every frame, from frame to frame – yielding a wealth of measurements.

“That’s not bad work for a summer,” Kelley said. The next step will be to start conducting chemical reactions in the chamber.

“I wanted to see what research is like,” said Wang, who plans to go on to graduate school. “This was a great opportunity to do that.”

Colon also appreciated the opportunity to “test the waters. I was a great summer. I had a great professor mentoring me. I was able to work with Jinge. We were not able to actually mix in chemicals, so I’m actually hoping to continue doing this research and seeing what results we get.”

(Xerox fellows often continue their projects into the school year, getting credit for independent study.)

Colon said he learned a lot from the experience, from learning to use mills and lathes, to expanding his skills with Matlab (the computer programming and design language), to writing papers.

“The first thing I learned is how to work with a lab group,” added Wang. “We have four or five projects in the same lab, and there are post docs and masters students. We got along with each other very well, and I learned a lot from them.”