Each year, manufacturing facilities and vehicle technology companies around the United States fail to recover a significant amount of low-temperature waste heat. This heat escapes in the form of hot exhaust gas and liquid, as well as through thermal conduction, convection and radiation from hot surfaces and product streams.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are exploring ways to capture and reuse this waste heat, which will help improve the facilities’ overall energy efficiency.
Krishna Chetty, a graduate student in nuclear engineering at Purdue University, recently joined these research efforts as a participant in the Nuclear Engineering Science Laboratory Synthesis (NESLS) Program.
Under the mentorship of Prashant Jain, Ph.D., a research and development staff member in the Advanced Reactor Engineering Group of ORNL’s Reactor and Nuclear Systems Division, Chetty helped design a direct-contact heat exchanger through computational fluid dynamics, a method for solving fluid flow problems using computers. A direct-contact heat exchanger refers to a device used for heat transfer between two or more fluid streams through direct mixing without an intervening solid wall. In Chetty’s research project, the heat exchanger operated on an organic Rankine cycle optimized for low-temperature waste heat recovery.
“This project is directly aimed at addressing a key challenge in U.S. manufacturing through modeling, simulation and data analysis to enable innovations in waste heat recovery that improve energy efficiency and productivity and reduce costs,” Chetty said.
Through the NESLS internship, Chetty improved his problem-solving skills, made key contacts for future opportunities and gained valuable research experience at a federal facility. He particularly enjoyed the chance to attend professional development seminars covering the latest developments in the nuclear field.
Chetty said his time in the NESLS program was one of the best experiences he has had outside an academic setting. After he completes his dissertation at Purdue, he hopes to return to ORNL as a postdoctoral researcher.
The NESLS program at ORNL is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.