#TeamCarbon: Meet Dr. Jesse Capecelatro

Dr. Jesse Capecelatro is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. His research group develops numerical methods and data-driven approaches for the prediction and optimization of “messy turbulent flows” relevant to energy and the environment (often multiphase and reacting). His current research projects are focused on modeling compressible two-phase flows, adjoint-based methods applied to turbulent combustion, heat and mass transport in turbulent gas-solid flows, and understanding interactions between electrostatics and turbulence in atmospheric clouds. 

Q: What does your research currently focus on?

A: Our research is focused on developing numerical algorithms and models to simulate “messy” turbulent flows (often multiphase and reacting). Recently we’ve been pushing these methods to understand and model the flow of turbulent gas-solid flows undergoing heat and mass transfer with applications on biomass pyrolysis and CO2 absorption.

Q: What role do you think carbon technology or CO2-based products play in climate mitigation policies?

A: In today’s political climate, I believe any climate mitigation policy must make a strong case for economic growth in order to have a chance of becoming federal law.

Q: What real world application or sector(s) do you see your research or tech having the most impact on?

A: Multiphase reactors are at the heart of nearly all energy generation processes. Our research is focused on understanding the role of fluidization and turbulence on heterogeneous reactions relevant to CO2 absorption.

Existing coal-fired power plants in the US have more than 300,000 MW of power capacity, providing about 50% of the total power generated nationally and representing more than 30% of CO2 emissions. Any reasonable strategy for mitigating anthropogenic climate change must reduce these emissions without closing these plants. Yet it is important to recognize that the same chemistry that enables these technologies to produce energy, also produces a number of profoundly harmful environmental impacts and pollutants that harm public health, which disproportionately affect poor communities. I believe a fundamental understanding of transport processes in multiphase systems is needed to improve reactor technology and mitigate their harmful effects.

Q: How do students react to your work or this climate mitigation approach in general?

A: At this stage, our research is focused on the fundamental physics relevant to many of these technologies. CO2 capture is a great motivating application to pursue fundamental research.

Q: How has the Michigan community supported your efforts, or have there been any reactions from fellow faculty, students, researchers?

A: Supercomputing resources from the Advanced Research Computing Technology Service at the University of Michigan has been pivotal.

Q: Have you seen any growth in this field that gives you hope for future efforts?

A: The first commercial-scale coal chemical looping plant for electricity generation and carbon capture has just gone online (led by  Prof. L. S. Fan, director of Ohio State’s Clean Energy Research Laboratory) demonstrating that removing carbon at the source of electricity generation is a practical (and economically feasible) endeavor.