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Breakthrough Research Transforms Thermal Management in Infrastructure and Hydrogen Storage


As the demand for sustainable energy solutions continues to rise, Mr. V.K. Kukkapalli’s groundbreaking research papers offer significant advancements in the fields of roadway embankment stabilization and metal hydride reactor design optimization. With a focus on thermal management, these studies unlock innovative approaches to enhance infrastructure development in cold climate regions and improve the efficiency of hydrogen storage systems.

In the Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology (2021), Mr. Kukkapalli’s research delves into the optimum design of thermosyphon evaporators for roadway embankment stabilization in arctic regions. Currently, thermosyphons are employed in roadway embankments to prevent permafrost thawing by rejecting heat during the cold season, thereby maintaining the ground temperature below freezing. However, high installation costs hinder their widespread use. Through numerical investigations, Mr. Kukkapalli along with his advisor Dr. Sunwoo Kim explored the spacing between neighboring thermosyphons to identify the optimal design. The results reveal that a spacing of 5.5 m for parallel and one-bifurcation level Y- and T-shaped evaporators, and 7.0 m for two-bifurcation level Y- and T-shaped evaporators, optimizes the ground temperature. Moreover, the two-level bifurcated Y-structure thermosyphon shows a remarkable 13% improvement in hot spot temperature compared to conventional thermosyphons.

In another significant study, published in Energies (2022), Mr. Kukkapalli addresses the challenges associated with metal hydride reactors used for hydrogen storage. Metal hydrides offer advantages such as room temperature hydrogen storage and reduced volume requirements compared to traditional gas tanks. However, the slow charging process and the need for efficient thermal management pose obstacles. Mr. Kukkapalli and colleagues developed a metal hydride reactor model in COMSOL Multiphysics, focusing on optimizing the cooling channel design. The study demonstrates that incorporating phase-changing coolant and varying convection coefficients along the length of tubes significantly reduces the hydrogen charging time and peak reactor temperature. By adding fins and increasing the number of passes, the research achieves a 56% to 68% reduction in charging time compared to tube-only configurations, with 6-, 9-, and 12-pass heat exchangers recording charging times of less than 10 minutes.

Mr. Kukkapalli’s comprehensive review paper, “Thermal Management Techniques in Metal Hydrides for Hydrogen Storage Applications” (Energies 2023), consolidates the latest advancements in thermal management methods for metal hydride systems. The review covers various techniques such as optimized reactor vessel shapes, heat exchangers, phase change materials, nano oxide additives, cooling tubes, water jackets, and high thermal conductivity additives. It offers insights into performance comparisons and assists researchers in selecting appropriate thermal management techniques. By analyzing hydrogen adsorption time relative to reactor size and the amount of hydrogen absorbed, the review guides further exploration and development of effective thermal management techniques for metal hydrides.

The findings from Mr. Kukkapalli’s research papers hold immense importance for current practices in infrastructure development and hydrogen storage applications. Implementing the optimized designs for roadway embankments can enhance thermal management, stability, and longevity, addressing issues associated with permafrost thawing in cold climate regions. Similarly, the improved efficiency and reduced charging times in metal hydride reactors pave the way for enhanced performance, cost-effectiveness, and practical deployment of hydrogen fueling systems.

Mr. V.K. Kukkapalli’s groundbreaking studies signify a remarkable contribution to the fields of thermal management and sustainable energy solutions. By pushing the boundaries of infrastructure development and hydrogen storage, his research drives us closer to a more resilient and sustainable future.

Energies 15 02490 g004

Temperature profiles of the 6-passes tube Metal Hydride Reactor without fins (top) and with fin (bottom), Scale in Kelvin.

A diagram of a temperature

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Surface temperature (K) profile for second bifurcation for Y shaped tree architecture thermosyphon design for arctic roadway embankment model.

Mr. Kukkapalli and colleagues published their study in below journals:

Kukkapalli, V.K., Kim, JH. & Kim, S. Optimum design of thermosyphon evaporators for roadway embankment stabilization in the arctic regions. J Mech Sci Technol 35, 4757–4764 (2021).

Keith, M.D.; Kukkapalli, V.K.; Kim, S. Phase Change Cooling of a Metal Hydride Reactor for Rapid Hydrogen Absorption. Energies 2022, 15, 2490.

Kukkapalli, V.K.; Kim, S.; Thomas, S.A. Thermal Management Techniques in Metal Hydrides for Hydrogen Storage Applications: A Review. Energies 2023, 16, 3444.

For additional information, contact, Vamsi Krishna Kukkapalli, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska, United States.

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