Exploration of a novel technique for waste heat recovery through molecular dynamics: influence of wettability and electric field on water and water-based nanofluids

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Porterfield, Malcolm, Kenneth
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Electronic thesis
Mechanical engineering
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Most of the energy produced globally comes by way of a heat engine. The Carnot principle places a limit as to how thermodynamically efficient a heat engine can be. There is no heat engine that can be 100% thermodynamically efficient and as such a substantial proportion of all heat supplied to a heat engine is lost as waste heat. Waste heat therefore is a large energy source ready to be properly utilized. Herein, a novel approach for converting waste heat to electricity is discussed. It involves the use of the liquid to vapor phase change of a material dielectric (water) or electrolyte (nanofluid) in the embodiment of a capacitor for direct thermal to electrostatic energy conversion. While this method of waste heat recovery could potentially be added to the ever-expanding portfolio of energy conversion techniques, a number of aspects must be addressed before it can be brought into practice. Water was seen as an ideal dielectric phase change material given its high relative permittivity ratio when in the liquid form as compared to its vapor form. However, given its short voltage holdoff time the phase change of water would need to occur rapidly. This brings up concerns of explosive boiling. Herein, molecular dynamics analysis into the explosive boiling behavior of thin water films gave more insight into how the interaction between the surface and liquid affected explosive boiling onset time. A Lennard-Jones potential with one interaction site and a Morse potential with three interaction sites between water and solid substrate were used. It was found generally that a stronger interaction between water film and substrate led to faster explosive boiling onset times but an increase in the number of interaction sites delayed explosive boiling, even at the same wettability (contact angle). Understanding changes in the density and enthalpy of vaporization of a liquid dielectric such as water in the presence of an electric field is of importance due to the electrostatic nature of the waste heat conversion method under consideration. Specifically, if both density and enthalpy of vaporization are increased, the thermodynamic efficiency of the waste heat conversion method under consideration is decreased. Electric field effects are explored herein via molecular dynamics using two water models, the TIP4P-Ew and SWM4-NDP. The SWM4-NDP model is polarizable while the TIP4P-Ew model is not, which allows for a determination of the importance of model polarizability (i.e. variation in water model dipole moment) on these two properties of water when subjected to an electric field. Herein it was found that both water models respond similarly in terms of density and vaporization enthalpy variance upon the introduction of an electric field. Comparison was also made to the pressure induced by the electric field (electrostriction pressure) by way of a density comparison and it was found that the predicted electrostriction pressure overestimates the pressure experienced by water. Water by itself has a high enthalpy of vaporization, which limits the efficiency of the newly proposed conversion method. Research both experimental and through simulation has shown that the vaporization enthalpy of nanofluids can be engineered via nanoparticle size and material selection. An avenue less explored is manipulating the enthalpy of vaporization by altering the interaction strength between the nanoparticles and the base fluid. In practice this could be achieved through the addition of coatings to the nanoparticles to alter their wettability to the base fluid. This was explored by using a Lennard-Jones potential and Morse potential to model the interaction between base fluid (water) and the nanoparticle. For nanoparticles 2nm in diameter and at weight percentages up to 6%, the change in vaporization enthalpy due to alterations of the interaction strength between nanoparticle and base fluid was not significant (less than a 1% difference) when compared to the effect of altering the weight percentage of nanoparticles in the nanofluid or introducing an electric field. However, the effect of wettability may still become important at other nanoparticle concentrations and sizes. In all, the studies presented here further the understanding of phase change and thermodynamic properties of water and water based nanofluids under an electrostatic field which will help inform the development of a novel approach to waste heat conversion. The reduction of waste heat will improve energy sustainability outlooks.
School of Engineering
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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