Solving Fluid Science Equations and its Community Impact

Hannah Hull
August, 2021

Thermal and fluid sciences is an important sub-domain of mechanical engineering that focuses on aero-propulsion. This specific field explores fundamental aviation topics such as aerodynamics, propulsion, and controlling the noise and drag of airplanes. Dr. Unnikrishnan, an assistant professor at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and Florida State University, is an expert in thermal and fluid sciences at FSU’s Aero-Propulsion, Mechatronics, and Energy (AME) center.

Dr. Unnikrishnan and his team are working on the development of new, efficient algorithms to get to the root of aviation issues like noise emissions, drag, and excessive heating. Solving these issues will create a positive impact on communities surrounding airports by dramatically reducing noise damage and pollution. These positive impacts extend to airport personnel as well by creating a safer working environment and eliminating the risk of permanent ear and lung damage.

From a corporate perspective, the research being done to reduce drag for intercontinental travel can save airlines thousands of dollars in fuel costs. Getting to the bottom of how these aerodynamic mechanisms play out will lead to a better designed air transport system. Understanding mathematically how to travel beyond the speed of sound bred planes such as the Concorde, which could famously travel between New York and London within five hours. One factor that led to the Concorde being taken out of commission was noise pollution, but developing that same technology sustainably would bring us into a new era of travel.

At supersonic and hypersonic speeds, the vehicle gets heated because of air friction on the surface, and we are trying to bring that down by understanding the mechanisms which induce that surface heating,” Dr. Unnikrishnan states.

 The data sets generated by high-fidelity simulations are massive. Finding the right data to incorporate into the formulas can be like searching for a needle in a haystack, and that is when the RCC steps in to help. With the RCC parallel computing platform, solving the fundamental equations of fluid mechanics can be unimaginably faster. In the time it would take to solve 10 equations by hand, a supercomputer can solve one billion.

In Dr. Unnikrishnan’s words, “that's the prime contribution of RCC: solving the governing equation of fluid motion in a highly scalable manner, so that we can study the system performance.

CASL is always looking for graduate students, juniors, and seniors to experience the lab and see first-hand the scientific contributions being made. For more information on opportunities with Unnikrishnan’s team, reach out to