• Research Activities

    Propellant Management Research Expertise Group
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Propellant Management REG

This webpage intends to share and disseminate the activities of the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI) Research Expertise Group (REG) on “Propellant Management”.

The REG consists of around 15 scientific enthusiasts’ engineers and academic profiles. We work intensively to support the industry with applied research related to physical phenomena occurring in the following main subsystems:

  • Storage of cryogenic fuels (sloshing, dynamic of the contact line, boil-off management, densified fuels, …)
  • Cavitating / flashing in fuel line components (valves, metering orifices, inducers, injectors)
  • Flow transient in feed lines (multiphase fluid hammer, chill-down)
  • Two-phase heat transfer (regenerative cooling circuits, film cooling, heat exchangers, feed lines)

Our Growth and Diversification

We are historically active in the space field. However, in recent years, we have valorized our expertise in hydrogen fluid dynamics in many other sectors (aviation, maritime, energy storage, distribution…) aiming to answer the urgent needs and challenges raised by the ongoing green energy transition.

List of Master Thesis topics and internship available at VKI within the REG Propellant Management

This list is updated approximately every two-three month; if you have ideas that could fit within the framework of a proposed project, please do not hesitate to contact us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Projects are usually designed to have a healthy combination of Experimental (E), theoretical (T) or Numerical (N) research and are all linked to activities that result from our industrial collaborations and projects.

1. Similarity analysis of cryogenic flow phenomena using CFD (T/N)

Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) and Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) are promising candidates for new propellants with a limited environmental impact. These fuels operate at cryogenic temperatures, ranging from 20 to 110K, and therefore face specific challenges in their management. To simplify the experimental characterization of the physical phenomena in play, the von Karman Institute usually uses replacement fluids. To do so, a scaling analysis is necessary to determine the operating conditions and the validity range of the similarity.  The goal of this project is to confirm the similarity used for experiments at VKI using CFD, namely for the heat transfer mechanisms in transcritical hydrogen heat exchangers or in liquid hydrogen tanks.

The student will first get familiar with the physics of the problem and derive the similarity analysis to identify the driving dimensionless parameters and the limitations. Then, the case will be modelled using OpenFOAM both in the experimental and target conditions to validate the similar behavior and possibly identify discrepancies. 

What should you know. You have a good background in analytical physics, CFD and heat transfer phenomena, experience with OpenFOAM is a plus.  

Duration: 4-6 month 

Co-Supervisor: Dr. Maria Teresa Scelzo, Ir. Samuel Ahizi. and Dr. Antonio Cantiani

2. Modeling of cryogenic propellant management subsystems using EcosimPro (T/N)

In the frame of the rising use of liquid hydrogen as a propellant, the need for fast and reliable simulations of subsystems is emerging. The goal of this project is to assess the modeling capabilities of the software EcosimPro, with a particular focus on cryogenic valves and heat and mass transfer processes.

The work will be organized as follows. The student will first get familiar with the software and its coding capabilities. Then, the capabilities of EcosimPro will be validated against experimental and numerical benchmarks developed at VKI. Upon the validation results, the student will propose and implement code modifications to better capture the physics of the phenomena in play. The work will be concluded by modeling future experimental campaigns and supporting the design of experiments.

What should you know. You have a good background on numerical linear algebra, and you have basic knowledge of numerical computing and programming.

Duration: 3-4 months

Co-Supervisor: Ir. Samuel Ahizi, Dr. Jorge Pinho.

3. CFD simulations of heat transfer in supercritical fluids for hydrogen aviation (T/N)

Hydrogen (H2) aviation is one of the critical enablers of global economy decarbonization. In this future airplane concept, H2 will probably be stored as a cryogenic liquid to cope with its low density. Thus, heat exchangers will be needed to increase the H2 temperature in the fuel feedline before its combustion. In this process, the fuel is in a supercritical-transcritical state, where pseudo-boiling and heat transfer deterioration are expected. The von Karman Institute is developing a new experimental facility to study supercritical heat transfer in flow similarity with H2. The flow similarity criteria that drive the choice of the substitute fluid and the design of the experimental test section are well established for subcritical single-phase flows, but their extension to the transcritical state and the pseudo-boiling phenomenon remains an open question.

The proposed short training activity aims at investigating the problem using CFD simulations of a heated pipe flow in transcritical conditions. First, the student will conduct a literature survey on the available RANS models for supercritical heat transfer. Afterwards, CFD simulations will be performed and validated against experimental data. The validated model will finally be employed to study the heat transfer in flow conditions and geometry prescribed by the flow similarity. Comparing the CFD results in H2 and in flow similarity will validate the substitute fluid selection and allow a deeper understanding of the pseudo-boiling and supercritical heat transfer.

What should you know. The ideal candidate has basic knowledge of heat transfer and CFD.

Duration: 4-5 months

Co-Supervisor:   Dr. Maria Teresa Scelzo

4. Non-intrusive optical measurement of heat transfer in cooling channels for space applications (E)

Additive manufacturing is revolutionizing the design, optimization, and production of many components in the aerospace industry. While enabling unprecedented freedom in shapes design and optimization and reducing manufacturing costs, additive manufactured products are characterized by significantly higher wall roughness. In the cooling channels of rocket thrust chambers, the higher wall roughness modifies pressure drop and heat transfer in a currently unpredictable way. This project aims to studying and isolating the effect of the increased wall roughness on the flow thermohydraulic performing experiments in 3D printed cooling mini[1]channels. The experimental data will produce benchmark test cases to validate high-fidelity numerical models and cost-efficient engineering tools. Two-phase flow phenomena like nucleate and film boiling will be studied.

The TROPIC experimental facility, appositely designed and built to study flow boiling in small channels, features the unique capability of optically accessing the flow field on three sides of the test section. Thanks to this feature, the student will carry out Planar Laser Induced Fluorescence in the mini-channel to characterize the 2D temperature field of ethanol at the onset of flow boiling.

What should you know. The ideal candidate has basic knowledge of heat transfer, and she/he is interested in innovative non-intrusive measurement techniques.

Duration: 3-5 months

Co-Supervisor:   Dr. Maria Teresa Scelzo

List of publications within our REG

CANTIANI, A.; MULLER, J.; KOLOSZAR, L.; PLANQUART, Ph.: Sloshing in cylindrical tanks: assessment of CFD OpenFOAM two-phase models accuracy
20th International Topical Meeting on Nuclear Reactor Thermal Hydraulics, NURETH-20, August 20-25, 2023, ISBN 978-0-89448-793-4, https://doi.org/10.13182/NURETH20-40292

MARQUES, P.A.; SIMONINI, A.; PEVERONI, L.; MENDEZ, M.A.: Experimental analysis of heat and mass transfer in non-isothermal sloshing using a model-based inverse method
Applied Thermal Engineering, August 2023, Vol. 231, Paper 120871, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applthermaleng.2023.120871

MARQUES, P.A.; AHIZI, S.; MENDEZ, M.A.: Real time data assimilation for the thermodynamic modeling of a cryogenic fuel tank
ECOS 2023, 36th International Conference on Efficiency, Cost, Optimization, Simulation and Environmental Impact of Energy Systems, June 25-30, 2023, Las Palmas, Spain, ISBN 9781713874812, https://doi.org/10.52202/069564-0095

AHIZI, S.; MARQUES, P.A.; MENDEZ, M.A.: Modelling and scaling laws of cryogenic tank’s thermal response to sloshing
ECOS 2023, 36th International Conference on Efficiency, Cost, Optimization, Simulation and Environmental Impact of Energy Systems, June 25-30, 2023, Las Palmas, Spain, ISBN 9781713874812, https://doi.org/10.52202/069564-0032

VALLISA, L.; SCELZO, M.T.; LOPES, S.; DE PAEPE, M.; LABOUREUR, D.: NURBS-based immersed boundary method for arbitrary shaped particles
11th International Conference on Multiphase Flow, ICMF 2023, April 2-7, 2023, Kobe, Japan

FIORINI, D.; CARBONNELLE, L.; SIMONINI, A.; STEELANT, J.; SEVENO, D.; MENDEZ, M.A.: Characterization of a capillary driven flow in microgravity by means of optical techniques
11th International Conference on Multiphase Flow, ICMF 2023, April 2-7, 2023, Kobe, Japan

PINHO, J.; MAGETTE, A.; SCELZO, M.T.; GOURIET, J.-B.; STEELANT, J.: Design and analysis of a cryogenic unsteady flow experiment through a propellant assisted valve
8th World Congress on Momentum, Heat and Mass Transfer, MHMT'23, March 26-28, 2023, Lisbon, Portugal, https://doi.org/10.11159/icmfht23.127

SCELZO, M.T.; FARUOLI, M.; LEJEUNE, H.; VARIN, S.; PINHO, J.: Experimental and numerical study of a cryogenic ball valve using liquid nitrogen
8th World Congress on Momentum, Heat and Mass Transfer, MHMT'23, March 26-28, 2023, Lisbon, Portugal, https://doi.org/10.11159/icmfht23.133

KOTSARINIS, K.; GREEN, M.D.; SIMONINI, A.; DEBARRE, O.; MAGIN, T.E.; TAFUNI, A.: Modeling sloshing damping for spacecraft: A smoothed particle hydrodynamics application
Aerospace Science and Technology, February 2023, Vol. 133, Paper 108090, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ast.2022.108090

RATZ, M.; FIORINI, D.; SIMONINI, A.; CIERPKA, C.; MENDEZ, M.A. Analysis of an unsteady quasi-capillary channel flow with time-resolved PIV and RBF-based super-resolution
Journal of Coatings Technology and Research, January 2023, Vol. 20, Issue 1, pp 27-40 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11998-022-00664-4

FIORINI, D.; MENDEZ, M.A.; SIMONINI, A.; STEELANT, J.; SEVENO, D.: Dynamic wetting experiment with cryogenic nitrogen
Experimental Fluid Mechanics 2022, November 29-December 2, 2022, Czech Republic, Submitted to EPJ Web of Conferences, 2023

FIORINI, D.; MENDEZ, M.A.; SIMONINI, A.; STEELANT, J.; SEVENO, D.: Effect of inertia on the dynamic contact angle in oscillating menisci
Physics of Fluids, October 2022, Vol; 34, Issue 10, Paper 102116, https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0119863

SOLLER, S.; GRAUER, F.; VOLLMER, K.; ZEISS, W.; SCELZO, M.T.; GOURIET, J.-B.; DE CROMBRUGGHE, A.; CLARAMUNT, K.; DINESCU, C.; TEMMERMAN, L.; DOERING, A.; SCHMIDT, S.; STEELANT, J.: Heat transfer phenomena in additively manufactured cooling channels
Space Propulsion 2022, May 9-13, 2022, Estoril, Portugal

ESPOSITO, C.; PEVERONI, L.; GOURIET, J.-B.; STEELANT, J.; VETRANO, M.R.: Hydraulic Similitude assessment for cryogenic cavitation in propellant lines: the case of thick orifice
Cryogenics, January 2022, Vol. 121, Paper 103407, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cryogenics.2021.103407

SOLLER, S.; RIEDMANN, H.; SIMONINI, A.; GOURIET, J.-B.; STRAUSS, F.; KIRCHBERGER, C.; DINESCU, C.; CLARAMUNT, K.; STEELANT, J.: Experimental and numerical investigation of ethanol film cooling
CEAS Space Journal, January 2022, Vol. 14, Issue 1, pp 187-196, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12567-021-00373-5

The SciSpacE White Papers, ESA, December 2021, White Paper #8: Applied Space Sciences

ESPOSITO, C.; STEELANT, J.; VETRANO, M.R.: Impact of cryogenics on cavitation through an orifice: A review
Energies, November 2021, Vol. 14, Issue 24, Paper 8319, https://doi.org/10.3390/en14248319

ESPOSITO, C.; PEVERONI, L.; GOURIET, J.-B.; STEELANT, J.; VETRANO, M.R.: Hydraulic performance of cryogenic cavitating orifices: can it be predicted after isothermal testing?
CAV2021 The 11th International Symposium on Cavitation, May 10-13, 2021, Daejeon, Korea, Virtual Conference

ESPOSITO, C.; MENDEZ, M.A.; STEELANT, J.; VETRANO, M.R.: Multi-scale Proper Orthogonal Decomposition for cavitating flows: applications to isothermal and thermosensitive cavitation
CAV2021 The 11th International Symposium on Cavitation, May 10-13, 2021, Daejeon, Korea, Virtual Conference

SCELZO, M.T.; ENEREN, P.; SAKAMOTO, Y.; PEVERONI, L.: Design and validation of a capacitance-based sensor for slurry density measurement
Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science, April 2021, Vol. 122, Paper 110299, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.expthermflusci.2020.110299

SIMONINI, A.; FONTANAROSA, D.; DE GIORGI, M.G.; VETRANO, M.R.: Mode characterization and damping measurement of liquid sloshing in cylindrical containers by means of Reference Image Topography
Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science, January 2021, Vol. 120, Paper 110232, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.expthermflusci.2020.110232

ESPOSITO, C.; PEVERONI, L.; GOURIET, J.-B.; STEELANT, J.; VETRANO, M.R.: On the influence of thermal phenomena during cavitation through an orifice
International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, January 2021, Vol. 164, Paper 120481, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheatmasstransfer.2020.120481

SIMONINI, A.; FONTANAROSA, D.; GRAZIA DE GIORGI, M.; VETRANO, M.R.: Liquid dynamics sloshing in cylindrical containers: A 3D free-surface reconstruction dataset
Data in Brief, December 2020, Vol. 33, Paper 106546, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dib.2020.106546

SCELZO, M.T.; PEVERONI, L.; BUCHLIN, J.-M.: Towards densified propellants for space launchers: an experimental and numerical study of slurry pressure drop in a 90° vertical bend
AIAA Aviation Forum 2020, June 15-19, 2020, Virtual Event, eISBN: 978-1-62410-598-2, AIAA 2020-3037, https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2020-3037

PEVERONI, L.; ESPOSITO, C.; PINHO, J.; STEELANT, J.; GOURIET, J.-B.: Hydro-thermodynamic behavior of a hydraulic restriction in liquid nitrogen in steady-state and fluid-hammer conditions
Aerospace Europe Conference (AEC2020), February 25-28, 2020, Bordeaux, France

SIMONINI, A.; PEVERONI, L.; VETRANO, M.R.: Simultaneous interface position and bulk velocity measurements in cryogenic sloshing
Aerospace Science and Technology, July 2019, Vol. 90, pp 452-462, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ast.2019.04.022

SIMONINI, A.; THEUNISSEN, R.; MASULLO, A.; VETRANO, M.R.: PIV adaptive interrogation and sampling with image projection applied to water sloshing
Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science, April 2019, Vol. 102, pp 559-574, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.expthermflusci.2018.12.016