Kees Venner develops fluid dynamics solutions for a more sustainable future
‘My main mission as a scientist is to contribute to the transition to sustainable technology and mitigate the effects of climate change to preserve our planet and to protect the environment for all its living beings,’ says professor Kees Venner, Chair of the Engineering Fluid Dynamics Group at the University of Twente. ‘It is crucial to do this through interdisciplinary collaboration,’ adds the expert on fluid dynamics. ‘That is why I always involve scientists from different disciplines. I try to serve as a bridge between engineering and physics so that we can translate new discoveries in physics to actual implementation in daily life technology. I constantly ask myself: what do we need to deliver more sustainable technology?’
Professor Venner’s work covers several research themes, all connected under the umbrella of fluid dynamics and all with the same overall goal: to reduce energy losses, to reduce material use, and to reduce the impact on the environment. ‘My original background and main area of expertise is lubrication. This area is crucial for many reasons as insufficient or inefficient lubrication directly leads to energy losses, lack of control of motion, and high risk of failure with dangerous and expensive consequences. We work on theoretical methods for accurate prediction of lubrication, under today’s often increasingly severe circumstances of operation of bearings. This is where fluid dynamics, solid mechanics and physics come together. We aim to develop new (meta)materials and new lubrication methods.’
One of the latest technologies Venner’s group is developing is ‘drop on demand’. ‘This is essentially a custom-made solution that allows you to apply precisely the minute (picoliters) amounts of lubricant needed at exactly the right location and time. This can lead to minimal use of the lubricant. The challenge is to still maintain sufficient lubrication in varying conditions with a highly controlled friction at a low level.’ This solution may be applied in bearings, gearboxes, drive trains and other applications in transport and industrial machines.
Kees Venner and his group are actively involved in aerodynamics and aeroacoustics. ‘We aim to be a very strong and competitive group in this important field. We use the excellent wind tunnel facilities we have at the University of Twente to investigate aerodynamic and aeroacoustics aspects of various devices, such as aircraft high lift devices, wind turbines and ventilators. Noise is one of the most important problems in our society of the next decades. Noise directly affects the living conditions of both humans and animals, and long term exposure can lead to health problems. Noise is also a major issue for the installation of wind turbines on land. Together with our industrial and academic partners, we aim to develop better predictive models for silent design, and also to better predict real flight noise based on wind tunnel tests. Our aim is to advance knowledge, and again to contribute to safer and more energy-efficient machines, with reduced impact on the environment.’
Fluid dynamics also contributes to the development of new methods to produce advanced (meta)materials. Venner’s group works on the development of droplet-based foam printing and contributes to the development of thermoelectric material for energy harvesting. On top of these technical applications, one of the research themes is medical applications, using fluid dynamics knowledge for research into problems related to the respiratory and vascular system. This work is done in direct collaboration with medical doctors in hospitals. At present this research aims to directly contribute to the understanding of how to reduce the spreading of the coronavirus.
‘Fluid dynamics is at the core of many developments and can help us create a more sustainable future,’ says professor Venner. ‘My mission is to provide high-level research and teaching and to directly link knowledge and applications to the solution of society's major problems nowadays. I want to contribute to a planet on which all living beings have space to live in healthy eco-systems and are treated with respect.’
Kees Venner is a highly dedicated teacher and head of education of the Thermal Fluid Engineering department, leading the Me-MSc tracks Aeronautics and Energy and Flow. In 2019, he even received the Brinksma Innovation Grant for his innovative teaching method, so-called ‘twin teaching’. ‘This method uses the presence of not one, but two teachers in the classroom – one is giving a lecture, as usual, and one is sitting in the audience together with the students. Having a teacher, and this can also be a mature student assistant, in the audience lowers the threshold for students. It creates a more inspiring environment in which students are less afraid to ask questions – they see that an expert, sometimes even a full professor, but not of the exactly the same discipline is interested, but doesn’t fully understand the topic, and is asking questions. This show all of us are continuously learning’ explains the scientist.
The professor motivates students to pursue a career in fluid dynamics by highlighting the problems they can help solve. ‘The societal urgency is enormous. Climate change is happening. We can see its effects and we need to act. As scientists, we need to provide the technology that will help us battle this issue. Just take aeroplanes, for instance. At this moment, due to the COVID-19 crisis, a number of Boeing 747 planes are parked at the airport Twente. Will they ever fly again commercially? They use much fuel, make too much noise. We need new technology. Can we make electric aeroplanes? What more is needed to make that a reality? And how will it affect the planes’ design, the range of air travel, and speed, and of course noise? The future generation of engineers will need to solve these problems, and so I try to motivate our students to look in that direction.’
Kees Venner is a full professor of Engineering Fluid Dynamics and the chair of the Engineering Fluid Dynamics Group at the University of Twente. He has 30 years of expertise in theoretical and applied research in different areas in fluid dynamics, including small scale thin layer flow and optimal interface design on a nanoscale in lubrication and microfluidics, biomedical fluid mechanics, wind turbines and aircraft aerodynamics/aeroacoustics. Venner has spent most of his scientific career at the UT, where he obtained his PhD degree in 1991. Afterwards, he held visiting scientist and Postdoc positions at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and at Imperial College in London. In 2000 he returned to the Engineering Fluid Dynamics group at the University of Twente, becoming a full professor in 2014.
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