UCLA engineers have developed a way to shape fluid flow through pipes without the need to solve complex equations.

The strategy could allow process engineers to better exploit the vast potential of fluid-flow applications.

According to the researchers, the ability to more easily manipulate fluid streams into different shapes could help improve reactions in industrial plants, and fabricate interlocking fibers to improve the properties of composite materials.

The approach could aid in shaping feed flows for manufacturing and chemical plants

Until now, such manipulations required detailed knowledge of complex fluid mechanics and intricate numerical simulations.

The technique developed by the research team eliminates the need to understand the mechanics of flow by allowing the user to pick from a library of many different fluid flow shapes.

The shapes can be combined in series to create even more complex shapes. Once a user has settled on a final shape using these simple operations, the system provides the size and location of pillars sequenced within a channel that yield the shape, without the need for any fluid dynamic simulation.

“Right now, using this technique, we are quickly designing simple fluid channels to perform automated operations on cells by moving and shaping fluid to wash cells and perform chemical dyeing procedures,” said Dino Di Carlo, associate professor of bioengineering at the UCLA.

“In the future, once we can tell a user how to design any shape of interest without trial and error, I see such an approach extending beyond the microscale to aid in shaping feed flows for manufacturing and chemical plants, maximising light exposure to algae for biofuel production, or cooling large data-center warehouses efficiently.”

Process engineering

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