Dr. Peichun Amy Tsai, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering has been named Canada Research Chair in Fluids and Interfaces. Dr. Tsai joined the U of A’s Faculty of Engineering in January 2015 from the University of Twente in the Netherlands.
Dr. Tsai studies fluid dynamics at all levels – from swirling currents right down to the micro and nanoscale – in order to understand and control a variety of processes across different disciplines.
At the largest scale of Tsai’s work, she focuses on the instability created when one fluid pushes against another. Specifically she studies the instability created when steam pushes against oil, an industrial practice in oil extraction. Tsai studies this instability in order to increase the efficiency of the oil industry in its extraction processes.
In the mid-range scale, Tsai investigates the same fluid dynamics, which allows penguins to leap out of the water and on to land. Gas bubbles are released from penguins’ feathers and creates a drag effect. This drag effect enables the penguins to leap out of the water at 3-4x their maximum swimming speed. The same drag effect might be applied to human products such as submarines to increase productivity and efficiency.
Dr. Tsai’s smallest scale research may just have a very large impact. Tsai examines the way blood flows at the nano-scale to improve the performance of the device known as a “lab on a chip.” These tiny laboratories need only a drop of blood to analyse and produce diagnoses. To make these little labs most efficient, Tsai studies how to make sure the blood flows efficiently into the correct part of the chips. These chips can make diagnosis much more convenient for doctors and patients alike.
Fluid dynamics are found in all natural and industrial processes; Dr. Tsai’s research will lead to a wide-range of improvements in our knowledge and our capabilities.