Visualizing Fluid Flow Patterns

Visualizing Fluid Flow Patterns

The Mathematical Sciences department’s flow dynamics lab ––one of the few such labs in a math department in the country––recently purchased a Particle Image Velocimeter (PIV) thanks to a National Science Foundation grant. Professors Ashwin Vaidya, Arup Mukherjee, Philip Yecko and David Trubatch will use it to study patterns of complex fluid dynamics.

The PIV’s camera records at thousands of frames per second, which slows down any flow process, says Project Principal Investigator Vaidya.  “This allows us to visualize and understand complicated fluid flow patterns that could not otherwise be seen with the naked eye.”

This information helps develop mathematical models that can be used to estimate or predict behaviors in numerous engineering, biological and geophysical applications. “We are gaining insight in understanding the nature of swimming and flight that could be used to design better vehicles,” Vaidya explains. The flow patterns provide data about structural oscillations in air and water, which engineers can apply to prevent buildings from swaying, bridges from collapsing, airplanes from spiraling out of control or oil rigs from becoming unstable. The team is also interested in the flow of magnetic fluids, which have tremendous potential for biomedical use, notes Vaidya.

Using a magnet to guide a ferrofluid containing a chemotherapeutic drug directly to a tumor, for instance, can be more efficient and reduce unpleasant side effects.