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PhD in Engineering: Rotary Heater Element Performance – Simulation and Optimisation for Environmental and Economic Impact

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, May 31, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Start date: October 2019 (negotiable)

The School of Engineering of the University of Glasgow is seeking a highly motivated graduate to undertake an exciting 3.5-year PhD project entitled “Rotary Heater Element Performance – Simulation and Optimisation for Environmental and Economic Impact” within the Aerospace Sciences Research Division.

This project has been devised in collaboration with a multinational heavy engineering company which supplies air and gas handling equipment. Established 165 years ago, the company has grown to become a worldwide organisation with over 6,000 employees and companies in 26 countries. Its UK Headquarters engineers and supplies Rotary Heat Exchangers and Centrifugal Fans for international applications in the Power, Steel, Mining and Tunnel Ventilation markets.

With climate change continuing to drive global emissions reduction targets, there is an increasing role for rotary heat exchangers in any energy intensive process that involves waste heat. Existing applications include air quality control systems for the removal of SOx and NOx from flue gases in power generation. Tighter legislation is now driving equivalent emissions reductions in the iron and steel industry. This will then follow on to other energy intensive industries to combat smog and improve air quality. Rotary heat exchangers will also have a role in future carbon capture applications.

Environmental considerations and energy costs both make it important to maximise rotary heat exchanger efficiency. The associated reduction in fuel consumption with improved efficiency results in a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions.

These two considerations underpin the objectives of this project, which specifically relates to the design of heat transfer elements for use in Rotary Heat Exchangers (heaters). These elements consist of thin plates, usually in pairs, with a geometry designed to induce turbulence and hence heat transfer between the metal and gas flowing through the heater. Assessing the thermal and pressure drop performance characteristics of heat transfer elements currently requires the element profile to be manufactured and physically tested on a bespoke wind tunnel type test rig. In addition it is unclear what aspects of current element configurations lead to better or worse performance.

The aim of this study is to develop high fidelity models, using available Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) tools, for simulating the complex flow within heater element packs. These models will be used, firstly, to gain a better understanding of the impact of detailed turbulent flow structures on both heat transfer and pressure drop characteristics of known element types. This work will be validated by comparing the results from CFD to empirical data obtained from the test rig.

Secondly, with improved knowledge of the major influences on element performance, a more scientific approach to element development will be possible, providing substantial cost and time savings associated with manufacturing elements for testing. This phase of the project will involve developing simulation tools to undertake a parametric study of configurational changes in conjunction with optimisation strategies to produce improvements in current element performance.

This project will provide an excellent opportunity to combine numerical simulation with real world industrial testing, through working in partnership with a highly respected engineering company. The project will be managed by Dr Marco Vezza, a Senior Lecturer in the Division of Aerospace Sciences at the University of Glasgow. Access to CFD software on high performance computing facilities is available both within the University and through a local academic partnership to shared HPC facilities.

Application for this scholarship is made by using the online system at the ’Apply Online’ link. It should be noted that this application is to gain admission to our PGR programme, and an offer of admission may be sent out before a decision on this Scholarship is made.

For an informal discussion or for further information on this project, potential applicants are encouraged to contact:
Dr Marco Vezza, Aerospace Sciences Research Division, University of Glasgow, tel: 0141 330 4107, e-mail:

Funding Notes

The studentship is supported by the School, and it will cover home tuition fees and provide a stipend of £14,999 (tbc) per annum for 3.5 years.

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