Alex Sylvester

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Geometric Heat and Mass Transfer Enhancements in Energy Recovery Ventilators
St John's

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

After finishing my bachelor's degree in physics, I went straight into the workforce. I was a technical support technician for a fanless computer company in Vermont. It was good work, but the engineering department was what really interested me. The problem was that having the full time job there took up so much time that I could not focus on improving my engineering knowledge. Graduate school offered the time and support I needed to change my direction in life.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I applied because of the reputation of the school. I ultimately decided to accept the offer after speaking with my prospective supervisors and hearing about the projects they were working on. The scenery here certainly didn't hurt either.

I really wanted to work on something that helps the environment and the economy. It's a hard balance to strike, especially in Canada.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

The opportunity to work on a project in clean energy that bridges academia and industry. I really wanted to work on something that helps the environment and the economy. It's a hard balance to strike, especially in Canada.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

How great the skiing is here. I mean I heard it was good, but it way surpassed my expectations.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

Building things. Graduate school in engineering gives you a lot of freedom and resources to create some very cool devices.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Hiking, skiing, home brewing, foraging, and travelling. The last one is especially great around here – you can rent a car for a couple days and see some of the most amazing scenery of your life.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Talk to the graduate students in your prospective group before accepting an offer. You can learn a lot from a few short skype conversations.


Learn more about Alex's research

Energy recovery ventilators (ERV) are energy-saving additions to building ventilation systems. They work by moving heat and moisture between the exhaust and intake air streams. One possible way of maximising this transfer (and the resulting energy savings) is through geometric mixing features in the airflow passages of the ERV. While this strategy is well known for many types of heat exchangers, it has not yet been applied to ERVs, which contain special polymer membranes. This study investigates various plausible local geometric modifications to improve ERV effectiveness. Simulations are carried out for laminar flow in compact passages, so a modelling approach is expected to be accurate. Results are reported for local Nusselt number (heat transfer), Sherwood number (mass transfer) and frictional pressure drop (fan power). So far we have shown that a twisted tape insert can improve heat transfer by up to a factor of 3, with minimal additional fan power required. Our next steps will be to investigate geometries that are practical for manufacturing and ultimately test them in a real prototype.