Sanadgol and UVa Colleague Present Invention at Innovation Showcase

| November 13, 2007

In case anyone noticed assistant professor of engineering Dorsa Sanadgol missing at Sweet Briar’s last faculty meeting, she had a good reason. She was en route to the McLean Hilton in Tysons Corner for the 2007 Virginia Innovation Showcase on Nov. 2.

The University of Virginia Patent Foundation chose Sanadgol and her UVa colleague George T. Gillies’ concept for an electrostatic boost mechanism for turbomachinery to present at the event. Organized by the Business Alliance of George Mason University, it is a forum where inventors hope to find investors and where industry representatives might discover solutions to vexing problems or promising new technologies.

Dorsa Sanadgol and her colleagues are preparing to test their idea on the wind tunnel in SBC’s engineering lab. Photo by J. McManamay

Seven other Virginia universities – George Mason, Hampton, James Madison, Old Dominion, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth and the College of William & Mary – also sent work to the show.

Sanadgol and Gillies have filed for a provisional U.S. patent through UVa’s foundation. Similar to patent offices at other universities, UVa’s foundation is a not-for-profit corporation that evaluates intellectual property resulting from faculty research. According to its Web site, the foundation “seeks to protect those inventions that show commercial potential, and licenses those rights to industry.”

Provisional patents allow inventors time to turn an idea into reality. Sanadgol and Gillies are nearing their initial tests on a process they think will make industrial gas compressors more efficient. Industries that may benefit include power generation, oil production and airplane manufacturing.

By bonding a permanently electrostatically charged material called an electret to the blades of an impeller – a primary compressor component – the gas flowing through the impeller should adhere more closely to its surfaces. It does this because the interaction between the electret-covered impeller blades and the passing flow produces an electrostatic pressure, accelerating the flow toward the blade surfaces.

“Flow separation is a big problem in turbomachinery in general,” Sanadgol said. “You lose a lot of efficiency.”

Many things have been tried to overcome the problem, she said. “The main benefit of this method is that it does not require additional hardware or software to control the flow.”

Sanadgol, with help from her research assistant, Victoria Nilsson ’10, will begin testing on equipment available in SBC’s engineering lab. The first trials hopefully will reveal whether the electret reduces air separation. They will run wind tunnel tests on two airfoils that are identical, except that one will be covered with an electret film.

They hope to see that the electret-coated airfoil gets more lift, which means it produced less air separation than the untreated airfoil. “If [we] can do that, that would be super awesome,” Sanadgol said.

A positive result would help attract industry investors to continue development. A negative result doesn’t disprove the theory, however.

If no difference is observed between the two airfoil samples, Sanadgol and her team will seek opportunities to continue testing on more sophisticated equipment – just as they will do if the wind tunnel results show they are on to something.

Jennifer McManamay

Category: Engineering Science