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Jennifer Franck
October 3, 2023

Faculty Focus: Jennifer Franck

Written By: Caitlin Scott



Jennifer Frank is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, teaches in the Engineering Mechanics degree program, and leads the Computational Flow Physics and Modeling Lab. Her research group investigates the dynamics and physics of unsteady fluid flows. They utilize and develop various computational techniques, mostly using high-performance computing centers, to simulate complex, three-dimensional, and turbulent flows with applications in aeronautics, propulsion, and renewable wind/tidal energy.

View Prof. Franck’s faculty research video feature >>

Mechanical Engineering Research – Jennifer Franck


What one project are you most excited about working on right now?

I’m very excited about the renewable energy research we are working on in my lab. My lab performs simulations and models of marine energy turbines: these devices are similar to wind turbines but they operate underwater in rivers, tidal channels or off-shore ocean currents to convert the kinetic energy of moving water into electrical energy. Compared to wind energy, water has almost 1000 times more density which converts more power per given area, or per turbine rotation. My research group simulates the fluid motion and power generation of two innovative marine turbine designs, a cross-flow turbine and an oscillating foil turbine. Both these designs are amenable to shallow water such as rivers and can be stacked in close array configurations, improving the energy density and lowering the levelized cost of energy. To this end, we have developed models in how multiple turbines interact within shallow and confined waterways, and investigated methods in which multiple turbines constructively interact with one another.

What do you think the impact will be on tech and society?

Currently marine energy development is lagging that of wind energy by approximately 20 years.  Developers are working on prototypes, new grid-connected testing facilities are coming online, and commercial interest is slowing increasing.  My research group is constantly engaging with the marine energy industry, including developers and engineers who express a strong need for better turbine modeling and design tools specifically for water. Our hope is that our simulation tools and models will be utilized in the future to build more efficient and resilient marine energy turbines as this industry takes hold.