Energy Science and Technology

Thermal Sciences

The study of heat and mass transfer, thermodynamics, and combustion describe the focus of the Thermal Sciences Program. Research directions in the Thermal Sciences span a wide variety of topics that have both scientific and engineering content.


Our Department offers a generous selection of active research programs encompassing various aspects of thermal science and engineering. Typically, these programs employ advanced computational methods, as well as sophisticated experimental instrumentation.


Research in materials processing and manufacturing include semiconductors, thin films, optical fibers, advanced composites, welding, and laser machining. In energy conversion, mass transfer, and thermal control topics include microscale transport processes, reacting flows, internal combustion engines, heat exchangers, two-phase flow, phase-change thermophysics, and reactor safety. In the area of environmental engineering, research includes thermally enhanced soil remediation, and pollution formation in combustion processes. In fire safety, topics include flame spread in reduced gravity, urban/wild land interface safety and standards evaluation. In the area of computer performance, topics include cooling of electronic components at the chip level and flow and heat transfer in disk storage systems. Finally, microscale and nanoscale energy conversion and transport is an exciting new area that has many potential applications as well as scanning probe microscopy, femto-second laser microscopy, and spectroscopy. Many microfabricated thermal devices also span the experimental work in this area. Theoretical and computational studies include molecular dynamic and Monte Carlo simulation of energy transport. In bio-heat transfer, projects focus on cryosurgery and cryopreservation.


At the graduate level, our courses and seminars are designed to prepare students for conducting advanced research and development work throughout their studies and later in their careers. These courses cover the fundamental disciplines, as well as specialized topics such as fire safety, reacting flows, physicochemical fluid dynamics, transport in porous media, microscale transport, and turbulent transport.


Primary faculty members in Thermal Sciences are Professors V. P. Carey, J. Y. Chen, C. Dames, R. DibbleC. Fernandez-Pello, M. Frenklach, R. Greif, C. Grigoropoulos, B. Rubinsky, and X. Zhang.




The field of combustion has an inherently multidisciplinary character, with strong components in fluid mechanics, heat transfer, chemistry, and materials. Various aspects of combustion exist in numerous practical processes, including energy conversion, material processing, manufacturing, propulsion, waste incineration, pollution, and fire. These aspects of the field are reflected in the broad research interests pursued by the combustion faculty whose projects include improving the efficiency and emissions of energy conversion, combustion systems, micro-engine development, disposal of hazardous wastes, combustion and fire in reduced gravity, fire prevention in buildings and wild lands, and processing materials. The ongoing research that takes place in our combustion laboratories reflects in every way the multidisciplinary character of this field.


Faculty members in Combustion are Professors J.-Y. Chen, R. Dibble, C. Fernandez-Pello, M. Frenklach and R. F. Sawyer (Emeritus).