Heat Transfer and Combustion


Lab head: Dr Maryam Ghodrat

Heat Transfer and Combustion Laboratory at School of Engineering and Technology, UNSW Canberra, is contributing new theories, models and computational tools for accurate engineering design and analysis of complex flows including heat transfer, combustion and related air pollution ,environmental fluid mechanics and decarbonization of the energy sector


Combustion presents significant challenges due to its complex nature, including three-dimensional multiphase fluid dynamics, heat transfer (conduction, convection, and radiation), chemical kinetics, and turbulent species mixing— all of which are coupled to each other. Temperature strongly influences chemical kinetics, while thermal analysis directly impacts the energy efficiency of the system during combustion of coal, oil, or gas. Consequently, careful attention to heat transfer becomes vital.


Our research:

Heat Transfer and Combustion Lab in School of Engineering at UNSW is contributing new theories, models, and computational tools for accurate engineering design analysis and control of complex flows including heat transfer, chemical reactions, complex fluids, and other phenomena of interest in aerodynamics, environmental engineering and propulsion.

Research in the HT&C lab ranges from advanced simulation of complex turbulent flows to applying knowledge from computational and theoretical fluid mechanics and heat transfer theories to solve problems such as combustion dynamics of porous fuel beds, smouldering and behaviour and regime of wildfire propagation in Wildland Urban Interface

The group is involved in a wide range of cutting edge basic and applied research from nanoscale conduction and radiation to large thermal energy systems. 


1- Combustion Modeling

Our work focuses on advanced simulations of combustion processes that include fluid dynamic, chemical kinetic, and heat transfer components.

"We use open source and commercial software packages for modeling advanced combustion problems."

Combustion in fire: Research topics include ignition and flame spread of combustible material.

- Li-ion Batteries Fire Safety 

Numerical modeling of thermal abuse in Li-Ion Batteries:

We use OpenFOAM, COMSOL, ANSYS Fluent, and Gpyro to simulate  chemical reaction of the heat sources in Li-ion batteries thermal runaway. For instance we use the four-equation model in ANSYS Fluent to divide the thermal runaway reactions within the Li-ion batteries into four distinct groups namely electrolyte decomposition reactions, cathode electrode-electrolyte reactions, anode electrode-LE reactions and SEI decomposition reactions.


 2- Fire research

While fire has been around since the beginning of man, we still have much to learn about it. The challenge in understanding fire behaviour is due to the highly coupled transport processes of chemical reactions and radiation heat transfer in a turbulent mixing buoyancy driven flow.

At the core of our fire research lies a focus on the fundamental physics underlying fire phenomena. By leveraging insights from fluid mechanics, heat transfer, and combustion, we tackle issues pertaining to fire safety, climate, and public health. "We use numerical modeling techniques to gain a deeper understanding of experiments, while also exploring fire risk and spread."

Our numerical modeling helps us to undertake pioneering research into ignitability and combustion of fuels and their influence on fire spread and intensity. Our research covers a wide range of fire topics, from wildfire behaviour, transition to Wildland-Urban interface areas to fire performance of structural materials.

"We work with researchers around the world to understand the behaviour of wind-driven flame spread in a complex environment and to uncover mechanisms of home ignitability in the Wildland-Urban Interface."


3- Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions

Our research combines fundamental phenomena of thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, and heat and mass transfer, with cross-disciplinary work in materials science and engineering and chemical engineering The broad scope of our research provides frequent opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, both within and outside of UNSW. 


Our studies have a broad spectrum of applications including:

1-Environmental Fluid Mechanics:

  • Interfacial mass and heat transfer.
  • Air quality and air pollution.
  • Transport of oil spills and other pollutants in the ocean.
  • Simulation-based study of atmospheric  pollutants transport in complex urban environments

3-Engineering and Industrial Applications:

  • Cavitation flows
  • Renewable energy, e.g., wind energy, wave energy and solar energy


The lab uses High-Performance Computing tools on massive parallel supercomputers, specifically through NCI Gadi, to analyse these complex flows


Software tools and resources

  • OpenFOAM

OpenFOAM is the 3rd most widely used CFD platform in the world and is becoming more popular every day. Our  team uses  OpenFOAM as it is widely validated, easily parallelized, and highly customizable.

  • ANSYS Fluent 

Ansys Fluent is a general-purpose computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software used to model fluid flow, heat and mass transfer, chemical reactions, and more. Fluent offers a modern, user-friendly interface that streamlines the CFD process from pre- to post-processing within a single window workflow. Our team also uses ANSYS Fluent as it is industry’s most accurate and trusted solver and it maximizes our productivity with user-friendly interface. 

  • Matlab & Python

Much of our work is done using custom codes and user created online toolboxes. Matlab and Python offer ideal development environments and built in tools for cutting edge aerospace analysis. Optimization toolboxes in both Matlab and Python are particularly useful.

  • cfMesh OPEN SOURCE 

There are numerous meshing tools available for CFD. In the open source domain, cfMesh stands out among the best. High quality hex-dominant grid resulting in low non-orthogonality and skew lead to fast convergence and stable dependable results.

  • HPC & Linux

CFD and numerical analysis are computationally expensive. For large cases, our lab has access to NCI HPC resources on gadi,and UNSW HPC support through partnership with NCI. 


Research Areas:

  • High-Fidelity Computational Fluid Dynamics Modeling and Simulation
  • Simplified and reduced order methods
  • Multi-Disciplinary Physics-Based Computational Methods
  • High-Performance Computing
  • Multi-objective and multi-disciplinary optimization
  • Renewable Energy Systems
  • Naval Hydrodynamics
  • Verification and Validation


Current Research Projects: 

1- Artificial-intelligence active flow Control for reductIon of transport emissions

2-Adaptive mesh refinement for simulating complex flows with locally fine structures.

3-Extinguishing of hydrogen pool fires: A numerical tool development 

4-Fire and explosion of onboard high-pressure hydrogen tanks 

5-Leakage explosion simulation of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

6-Fire suppression modeling

8-Fire dynamics simulations for LNG tanks and pressure vessels

9-Flame Dynamics and Reignition modeling using FireFOAM 



Research Team:

Dr Maryam Ghodrat 

Dr Ao Li

Dr Shadi Abpeikar


PhD students:

1- Mostafa Mohamed Elarabi

2-Mahmoud Waly

3- Osman Eissa 

4- Amirhossein Sabourishirazi 






Project team

Dr Maryam Ghodrat
UNSW Canberra
Dr Shadi Abpeikar
UNSW Canberra
Dr Ao Li
UNSW Canberra

Project collaborators: External

Dr Andrea Giusti
Imperial Collège of London

Key contact

UNSW Canberra