Iowa State University has a history of excellence in multiphase flows. Professor and ME chair Art Bergles (chair 1972-1983) had a large experimental program in boiling and two-phase flows, and there was even a region in Black Engineering that was designated for the study of large vertical two-phase flows when it was first occupied in 1985. Currently, there are several faculty working in the area of experimental multiphase flows over a variety of scales. The strong focus in computational methods in multiphase flows also had its start in the 1970s. Dick Pletcher (Mechanical Engineering) and Dale Anderson and John Tannehill (Aerospace Engineering) founded a computational fluid dynamics (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, Rodney Fox and Shankar 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 Aerospace and Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering in addition to the Mechanical and Chemical and Biological Engineering departments.
On the experimental side, Ted Heindel established the Experimental Multiphase Flow Laboratory in 2000 and used support from the National Science Foundation to develop an X-ray flow visualization facility for large-scale multiphase flows. James Michael and Travis Sippel bring unique high-speed flow visualization and laser diagnostic capabilities to several multiphase flow areas.
Established as a formal research center in December 2017, the Center for Multiphase Flow Research and Education (CoMFRE) provides a 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.