Thomas Hughes and Mary Wheeler, professors of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, have been selected to receive 2016 Institute for Computational Engineering Sciences (ICES) Grand Challenge Awards. Selection for these awards is based on highly compelling research proposals related to the Grand Challenges in computational engineering and sciences that affect the competitiveness and international standing of the nation.
Hughes was selected for his work on detecting vulnerable plaques, a common underlying cause of heart attacks. There remains a huge unmet need in this area of medicine, which is considered one of the “holy grails” of cardiology.
His group will develop a computational framework to create a 3D plaque model and run realistic blood flow simulations. This will enable a comprehensive study detailing the effect of 3D plaque shape on the most likely areas where commonly undetected vulnerable plaques occur. Eventually this could lead to a quicker and more accurate assessment of plaque vulnerability, which can better inform treatment options for patients.
Wheeler’s project will develop a simulation to identify the likelihood of sinkholes developing from injection of wastewater and carbon sequestration in the subsurface. Research has already established that the formation of sinkholes requires three conditions: (1) presence of a thick dissolvable rock formation (like salt caverns); (2) large, higher temperature, fluid flow rates of unsaturated fluid, and (3) conditions for mechanical destabilization and rock failure.
Wheeler’s group will conduct computational studies of the microscopic degree to which each of these conditions must exist for the sinkhole to occur. This includes taking into account common rock and cavern environments, paired with the components of the wastewater or rate of carbon sequestration.