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CTFL works on problems at the nexus of high-temperature gases and materials that result in complex fluid, chemical, and heat interactions that occur at multiple length and time scales in a coupled manner. Research in CTFL is divided into three themes:

  1. High-fidelity micro/meso scale physics
  2. Physics-informed models
  3. Vehicle-scale simulations and validation
microscale physics

Theme 1: High-fidelity micro/meso scale physics

We use a wide array of modeling and imaging tools to resolve the fluid, radiative, and chemical processes occurring between hot gases and micro/meso structure of materials. The structure of materials is resolved using x-ray computed micro-tomography and an in-house digital micro/meso structure generator solver. The fully-resolved structure acts as the input into our thermochemical modeling tools. CTFL has the capability to capture fluid, chemical, and radiative transport through these complex structures. These techniques have been primarily applied to thermal protection systems (TPS) materials that protect space capsules and leading-edge vehicles during hypersonic flight. The example below shows a tomographic scan and fluid transport through a TPS material, FiberForm. 

scale physics

Theme 2: Physics-informed models

CTFL also focuses on utilizing fully-resolved simulations (Theme 1) to develop models that are predictive and easy to use for analysis. These models take the shape of reduced-order models, surrogate models, and physics-informed models through custom-built supervised and unsupervised learning techniques. The figure below shown an example of utilizing custom supervised and unsupervised learning networks to predict permeability of materials using the data generated from Theme 1.

physics models

Theme 3: Vehicle-scale simulations and validation

The real strength of CTFL comes from completing the full cycle of performing high-fidelity micro/meso resolved simulations, developing predictive models, and validating at vehicle-scale using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and even flight testing. To read more about the Kentucky Re-entry Universal Payload System (KRUPS), a low-cost space capsule used for flight testing, please click here. The example below shows vehicle-scale CFD simulations of KRUPS and a prototypical leading-edge geometry that are being performed to validate the models that are developed in Themes 1 and 2.