SUBJECT: Ph.D. Proposal Presentation
BY: Mark Simpson
TIME: Thursday, January 23, 2014, 12:00 p.m.
PLACE: Love Building, 210
TITLE: Buoyancy-Induced Columnar Vortices for Electirc Power Generation
COMMITTEE: Dr. Ari Glezer, Chair (M.E.)
Dr. Marc Smith (M.E.)
Dr. Bojan Vukasinovic (M.E.)
Dr. Robert Black (E.A.S.)
Dr. Arne Pearlstein (MechSE, UIUC)


The formation of anchored, buoyancy-driven columnar vortices driven by the instability of a thermally stratified air layer and sustained by entrainment of ground-heated air is investigated in a laboratory facility using a heated ground plane and an azimuthal array of flow vanes. Naturally-occurring, buoyancy-driven columnar vortices (“dust devils”) spontaneously occur with core diameters of 1-50 m at the surface and heights up to one km, with considerable angular and axial momentum. Such vortices convert low-grade waste heat in an air layer overlying a warm surface into a flow with significant kinetic energy. The considerable kinetic energy of the vortex column cannot be explained by buoyancy alone and is a result of the production, concentration, and tilting of horizontal vorticity produced in the air layer over the heated ground plane. The present investigation focuses on the fundamental mechanisms of the formation, evolution, and dynamics of the columnar vortex with specific emphasis on the scaling and distribution of the available kinetic energy. It is shown that the scaling and strength of these vortices can be significantly altered through adjustments of the azimuthal flow vanes and thermal resources absorbed by the air flow.