Dr Vikram SONI, PhD in Mechanical Engineering (India)

Dr Vikram Soni is primarily working towards addressing the issue of thermal stress by exploring so-called thermal batteries. Such batteries could be used to easily store energy in form of latent heat due to the use of phase changing materials.

INDIAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY KANPUR, INDIA

Research focus: phase change material-based waste energy storage and recovery for comfort management, and thermal performance enhancement using nanoadditives

Heat and cold waves are said to be intensified by climate change. It severely affects the underprivileged people as they are more vulnerable to thermal stress, and often can neither afford cooling nor heating of their homes. A sustainable solution for this issue may be so-called thermal batteries, which can be placed on the roofs of houses to be used to heat or cool the rooms underneath. These thermal batteries contain phase change material (PCM). Similar to the phase transitions of ice from solid to liquid phase, where latent heat is stored in the liquid, thermal batteries also store latent heat. If the batteries absorb heat from sunlight, they could be directly used to store solar energy. Such systems facilitate decentralised energy generation while being a sustainable source of energy available to the population in emerging countries such as India.

Vikram is conducting research on thermal batteries in the thermal energy storage/waste heat recovery (TES/WHR) systems. There are various details of TES/WHR systems that need further attention such as undercooling of PCM in thermal batteries, which may cause the failure of TES/WHR system due to repetitive thermal shocks. Vikram developed a novel high-fidelity modelling-based prediction tool for PCM melting and undercooled solidification scenarios. This way, the discrepancy between numerical predictions and experimental data for PCM phase change is finally resolved after one decade. Furthermore, the thermal performance of the TES/WHR systems is limited by PCM's low thermal conductivity. To address this issue, nanoadditives are added to the PCM. Vikram developed a novel heterogeneous phase change model illustrating the effects of the nanoadditives.

The jury recognises Vikram’s important contribution to finding solutions for sustainable and affordable energy available to people in developing and emerging countries. The jury also values his engagement in a technical society to provide much-needed exposure to real-life engineering problems for researchers and students.