Iowa State University has a history of excellence in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) since the 1970s that has led to collaboration between multiple engineering departments. Pletcher (Mechanical Engineering) and Anderson & Tannehill (Aerospace Engineering) founded a CFD Center that fostered several fruitful interactions. More recently, this activity has evolved into an expertise in multiphase flow science including gas-solid, solid-liquid, bubble- and droplet-laden flows. Multiphase flow processes play a fundamental and crucial role in numerous fields, with each field including several multi-billion-dollar industries.
However, there is a significant knowledge gap between fundamental scientific breakthroughs in multiphase flows and their use in technology development and process optimization. This has led to inefficient technologies and over-design in industry, as well as the lack of technically informed governmental policy on safety and regulation. In part, this is due to the multiscale nature of the problem and the need for highly specialized training in domain-specific areas to perform world-class research in each of these scales. Since individual researchers can lead only in domain-specific areas of this multiscale problem, the rate of knowledge transfer from academia to industry is exceedingly slow. This points to the need for an interactive, interdisciplinary approach involving multiple investigators with complementary skill-sets who can comprehensively address the challenges of understanding, simulating, and manipulating complex multiphase flows that underlie important industrial and societal problems.
At Iowa State University we have a critical mass of established and emerging research leaders who are working on closely related sub-problems in multiphase flow. Starting in 2002, Fox and Subramaniam led a program on kinetic theory of gas-solid flow initiated by Dr. David Hoffman at the US DOE Ames Laboratory. The Granular and Multiphase Systems (GAMS) working group grew out of that effort and began meeting regularly to collaborate on multiphase flow research. Over the past decade, the group has grown considerably and expanded its collaborative efforts to encompass the Chemical & Biological and Civil, Construction & Environmental Engineering departments.
Established as a formal research center in 2017, the Center for Multiphase Flow Research and Education provides a truly unique opportunity for integration of research, education and outreach activities to accelerate knowledge transfer from fundamental scientific advances in multiphase flow to industrial applications and end-users. Thus, CoMFRE represents the logical next phase in the evolution of ongoing efforts in the College of Engineering in the areas of multiphase flow research and CFD.