Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
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AEM spotlight:

New faculty member joins AEM

Paul Dye

Professor Schwartzentruber is the newest addition to the AEM faculty

In December of 2007, Thomas E. Schwartzentruber joined the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics as an Assistant Professor on the Fluid Mechanics faculty. He received his B.A.Sci and M.A.Sci from the University of Toronto in Canada in 2001 and 2003, respectively, and his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan in 2007.

Schwartzentruber’s research focuses on utilizing particle simulation methods to model non-equilibrium gas flows, which are found at very high altitudes and at very small scales.

“The key issue with these flows,” Schwartzentruber explained, “is that fewer gas particles are present and, more importantly, they collide less frequently. When this happens, the gas no longer behaves like a continuous fluid and conventional Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) methods become inaccurate.”

CFD can be extremely accurate for continuum conditions, where density of gas is relatively high – like at the front of a vehicle reentering the atmosphere. In the wake of that vehicle, however, fewer particles are interacting – this creates problems for CFD-based modeling.

Schwartzentruber’s answer to these types of issues lies in particle-scale modeling and methodology. One major aspect of his research focuses on developing a hybrid model that combines the accuracy and efficiency of CFD methods with the certainty particle methods may lend in localized, low-density flows.

“Currently, it’s very difficult even on supercomputers to carry out a full reentry particle-simulation because of the extreme densities in the forebody region,” Schwartzentruber said. “The idea of my research is to use CFD for the forebody where it’s perfectly valid and only utilize a particle method in a local way when and where it is appropriate; the goal is to accurately simulate all regions but in a more computationally efficient manner.”

Professor Schwartzentruber is joining an internationally-renowned Fluid Mechanics faculty, including the computational expertise of Graham Candler, a Distinguished McKnight Professor and director of the National Hypersonics Research Center.

Candler said he was pleased that Schwartzentruber joined the department.

“Tom’s work on hybrid continuum and particle-based simulation methods for hypersonic and microscale flows is an excellent complement to my research group's work,” Candler said. “I am looking forward to working with Tom on a number of projects within the Hypersonics Center.”

Continued development of Schwartzentruber’s hybrid methods, in conjunction with existing faculty expertise in the department, will make increasingly-sophisticated, realistic models, cost-effective and accurate – which is of great interest to industry and the government.

“The hybrid particle-continuum method has a lot of potential,” Schwartzentruber said. “A successful model would allow one to use CFD methods where it’s fast, efficient, and accurate and where it is unclear, the hybrid model will get it exact - there is no tool for that right now.”

“Together with the expertise already here in the AEM department, development of a state-of-the-art multiscale method would be very important for NASA and the Air Force.”

Visit Professor Schwartzentruber's biography page here.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 22-Aug-2012 13:06:40 CDT -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation