University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota: Department of Mechanical Engineering

Particle Technology Laboratory - Research and Facilities

Research and Facilities at the Particle Technology Laboratory

The Particle Technology Laboratory is one of the leading centers of small particle research in the U.S.  It was founded in the 1950's by the late Professor K. T. Whitby.  The immediate past director is Regents’ Professor Emeritus Benjamin Liu.  It has grown to its present size of six faculty members, four technical and support staff, and approximately 25 graduate students working on various research projects and degree programs.  The Laboratory has published approximately 1,450 papers and reports, and produced approximately 150 Ph.D.'s and 400 Master level students. PTL is well-known for its instrumentation development activities. Instruments for particle generation, measurement, sampling and analysis in the range of 0.002 to 100 µm have been developed. Research has been incorporated into codes and standards by NIST, ASTM, ASHRAE, EPA, and ISO, etc.   

The research programs of the Laboratory are broadly divided into the following six major areas:

Major facilities of the Laboratory include 15,000 square feet of general laboratory space, and 500 sq. ft. of class 100 cleanroom space; wind tunnel, filter testing, and vacuum facilities; instruments for particle generation, measurement, sampling and analysis in the 0.002 to 100 µm diameter range; and microscopes, electron microbalances, gas analyzers, anemometry and other laboratory instruments.  The estimated value of the laboratory instrumentation is in excess of $3 Million.

Other Particle Interest Groups at the Mechanical Engineering Department

The Center for Diesel Research (Director: Professor David B. Kittelson) specializes in measuring engine emissions with a focus on nontraditional particulate emissions measurements. These measurements include metrics such as the particle number concentration, size distribution and surface area. Past research topics have included the effect of dilution systems, fuels, lube oils and aftertreatment systems of particulate emissions. Current research topics are focused on advanced particle measurements, alternative fuels, and advanced engine combustion characterization. Specific projects include: real-time ash measurement, an alternative fuel micro-turbine demonstration, HCCI engines, hydrogen fueled engine, and reducing knock in a CNG engine. 

The High Temperature and Plasma Laboratory was founded in the late 1950s by Ernst Eckert, and was led for three decades by now-Emeritus Professor Emil Pfender.  The HTPL is currently comprised of Professors Steven Girshick, Director, Joachim Heberlein and Uwe Kortshagen, over 20 graduate student research assistants, and several postdocs and visiting scientists.  Current research is focused primarily on plasma synthesis and processing of nanoparticles, for applications that include photovoltaics, wear-resistant coatings, medical therapies, optoelectronics and others.  Strong collaborations exist between the HTPL and the PTL, and use of PTL-developed instruments is routine in the HTPL.

The Computational Transport Phenomena Laboratory (Director: Professor Sean Garrick) specializes in the use of numerical simulation to answer fundamental questions in the fluid and thermal sciences. Our research in the areas of transport phenomena encompasses physical, analytical, and numerical modeling. We currently focus on the modeling and simulation of turbulent reacting flows, particle formation and growth dynamics, multi-scale modeling, and multi-phase heat, mass and momentum interactions. In these endeavors our goal is two-fold: (1) To utilize the latest mathematical and numerical tools to investigate and elucidate the underlying physico-chemical processes, and (2) to develop models and numerical algorithms which accurately represent the phenomena in a computationally-affordable manner, facilitating their use in solving problems of interest to industry and society.