Flowing Fluids Can Generate Electricity

Telemachos Agoudemos, “Flowing Fluids Can Generate Electricity”
Mentor: Robert Balmer, Mechanical Engineering
Poster #147

Something interesting happens when some fluids flow past a solid object – a high electrical charge can be generated which can produce hazardous conditions for workers in certain fields. While methods have been developed to mitigate this effect, there lacks a unifying explanation. This research explores the possibility that this generated electricity is the result of a phenomenon called the “viscoelectric effect”. There are numerous reports of disastrous explosions occurring when fuel storage and transport tanks are filled, fuel tankers being cleaned, flour milling facilities, and so forth due to a discharge arc forming between the fluid and the container. Helicopter rotor blades can generate as much as 100,000 volts, causing the blade tips to glow and personnel injury to grounded crew members upon landing. To avoid or enhance mitigation, a better understanding of the underlying phenomena is required. This study utilizes the theoretical elements of coupled nonequilibrium thermodynamic phenomenon in which two or more seemingly unrelated physical phenomena are in fact coupled to produce an unexpected result. Numerous examples that have been discovered in the past such as thermoelectric, piezoelectric, and so forth. We hypothesize that electrical current flux and the fluids momentum flux are coupled such that a current flux can be produced by a momentum flux alone. Since theoretical solutions for the momentum flux of several flow geometries are available in the literature, we can implement these flow geometries in the laboratory. Then measure the resulting current flux and subsequently determine the resulting coupling coefficients between these two phenomena. We anticipate providing a comprehensive new explanation for flow electrification. Since flow electrification can lead to disastrous explosions and personal injury in numerous industries, a complete understanding of its origin will have a significant impact.