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George Huang
Making Air Flow Work for Industry

by Jeff Worley & Robin Roenker

What do space shuttles, computer printers, hand dryers, and heat-recovery steam generators have in common? If you're going to maximize the design of any of them, you need to know something about computational fluid dynamics, or CFD.

Photo of George HuangGeorge Huang, a professor of mechanical engineering, specializes in using CFD techniques to analyze air flow patterns in an array of industry applications. Huang began his career at NASA, studying air flow as it applied to aerospace design. When he came to UK in 1996, one of his goals was to utilize his expertise to assist local companies.

"Basically, if we look at air flow over an airplane, it's the same as the air flow inside of a printer, for example. It's the same flow, only the geometry is different," Huang explains. "I believe as engineers, we have a responsibility to do not only fundamental research for publication, but to make sure that our work is connected to industry. And part of my mission is to connect my work with reality."

The mathematical CFD codes that Huang has developed allow for reality-based modeling of industry design concepts via computer. Utilizing CFD, industries can computationally predict their model’s performance, acoustics, stability, and control prior to prototype development—saving both time and money.

"With this technology, you can actually do the trial and error on the computer. It's cheaper, and that's the whole point," Huang says. "You can do all the pre-design experiments on the computer, and then you can select only the most effective ones to go to prototype development."

The CFD codes themselves are computationally intensive, requiring the power of a 200-node parallel computer cluster, which Huang has designed with his team in his lab. Utilizing both his own computer cluster and the university's supercomputer, Huang has assisted Kentucky industries like Vogt Power International, Lexmark, and MedVenture to optimize their designs for steam generators, printers and hand dryers.

Huang's collaboration with Lexmark engineers allowed them to manipulate air flow within their printers to make the ink-drying process more efficient and to reduce noise. And his work with Vogt in designing more efficient generators has led the company to develop its own CFD branch, which, in turn, now provides CFD consulting services to other industries.

One of Huang's long-term goals is to establish a computational center at UK to formally assist companies in using CFD to maximize industrial design.

About George Huang

George Huang's CFD software code called Overflow won honorable mention in the 1998 NASA Software of the Year competition and the Supercomputing 2000 Gordon Bell prize, price/performance category. He has subsequently developed two additional general-purposed CFD codes, GHOST and UNCLE, to run on his parallelized computer cluster for industrial applications. Since he came to UK in 1996, his research has garnered more than $2.5 million in federal support, much of it from NASA.

Huang Research Team