Faculty Profile

Kyle C Smith

Mechanical Science and Engineering
Kyle C Smith
Kyle C Smith
Assistant Professor
4419 Mechanical Engineering Lab
105 S. Mathews
Urbana Illinois 61801
(217) 300-0928

Primary Research Area

  • Fluid Mechanics

Education

  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, 2007
  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, 2012

Academic Positions

  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, August 2007 - July 2010
  • Charles C. Chappelle Fellow, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, August 2010 - July 2011
  • Ward A. Lambert Teaching Fellow, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, August 2011 - December 2011
  • Graduate Research Assistant, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, January 2012 - May 2012
  • Post-Doctoral Research Associate, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, May 2012 - August 2012
  • Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, September 2012 - July 2014
  • Faculty Affiliate, Computational Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, August 2014 - present
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, August 2014 - present
  • Faculty Affiliate, Beckman Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, August 2016 - present

For more information

Research Statement

Prof. Smith￿s research is focused on developing technological solutions to societal problems at the intersection of energy and water by using mechanical engineering knowledge of mechanics, transport of molecules and heat inside of fluids and solids, and thermodynamics of electrochemical reactions. On these problems we bring to bear a unique toolset that combines capabilities in numerical modeling and experimentation, incorporation of physicochemical phenomena over a range of scales, and by coupling different types of physics to develop multi-functional devices and materials. We are particularly interested in research problems at the intersection of energy and water demands, which our global society is likely to become increasingly burdened with in the future. Therefore, we have a forward-looking perspective in our approach to solving these problems, where unconventional solutions are developed based on detailed knowledge of physicochemical phenomena, combined with creative design. The technological solutions that we develop require application of knowledge from a variety of disciplines, including mechanical engineering, materials science, chemistry, and physics. Therefore, Prof. Smith￿s group is known as the Forward-Looking Interdisciplinary New-Technology Team or FLINT.

One thrust of Prof. Smith￿s research involves the development of materials and devices for energy storage applications. Of late, we have utilized techno-economic modeling of redox-flow battery systems to assess the impact of the properties of redox active fluids on the costs of a large system, which is a critical barrier for the penetration of energy storage on the electric grid to enable efficient utilization of renewable energy resources (e.g., wind and solar power). In doing this, we have determined criteria by which to select materials for flow batteries on the basis of cost. Within these devices we have also investigated the role of operating conditions on the performance of flow batteries, including the role of flow rate on the achievable charging levels that a battery is capable of. Furthermore, we are utilizing computational models of electrochemical transport phenomena to optimize the distribution of material within microscopic electrodes for various types of rechargeable electrochemical devices, including lithium-ion batteries. One application for such electrodes may be for electric vehicles, where weight, volume, and cost constraints require the use of energy-dense batteries. Here, knowledge of manufacturing processes must be integrated with evaluation of electrochemical performance in order to determine the optimal structures that we are also developing.

Another thrust of Prof. Smith￿s research involves the development of materials and devices for clean water applications. Though not typical research areas for mechanical engineers, Prof. Smith￿s group has utilized mechanical engineering principles to introduce novel electrochemical technology for these applications, including through the use of battery materials for desalination applications. Using a theoretical modeling approach to couple microscale sodium ion intercalation processes to the transport of ions within salt water, Prof. Smith￿s group showed that a sodium-ion battery could be used to desalinate seawater-level concentrations of NaCl energy consumption levels near thermodynamic energy minimums. Here, work has continued in his group developing alternative cell architectures for these devices, as well synthesizing nanoparticulate, multi-cation absorbing compounds. In addition, Prof. Smith￿s group is developing models for capacitive deionization devices to desalinate brackish water efficiently.

Research Interests

  • microstructure, mechanics, and transport in granular and heterogeneous materials
  • mass, charge, heat, and fluid transport in electrochemical systems
  • energy storage devices and materials
  • computational modeling

Research Areas

  • Applied Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Computation and Applied Math
  • Energy
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Manufacturing
  • Thermo Heat and Transfer
  • Transportation

Selected Articles in Journals

Patents

Professional Societies

  • Member of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2011-present
  • Member of The Electrochemical Society, 2011-present
  • Member of The Materials Research Society, 2009-present

Teaching Honors

  • Committee for the Education of Teaching Assistants Teaching Award, Purdue University (April 25, 2012)
  • Outstanding Senior in Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University (April 2007)

Improvement Activities

  • Collins Scholars Program, Academic Excellence in Engineering Education (AE3), College of Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Fall 2014-Spring 2015.