NSF Grad Fellowships 2013

Herrera, Ahumada Receive Prestigious Graduate Fellowships from the National Science Foundation in 2013

The Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation Awards have been announced for 2013!  This fellowship provides a stipend for three years of graduate study, and is based on academic excellence at the undergraduate level.  Ruth Herrera and Manuel Alhumada, both from the ME program, have both been named recipients of this prestigious award this year and are two of 6 recipients from all of SJSU.  The complete list of 2013 awardees can be found here.  Previous recipients from our department include Monica Kapil (BSME 2010, currently pursuing a PhD at UC Berkeley) and Anita Rogacs (BSME 2007, currently pursuing a PhD at Stanford).

ruth herreraRuth Herrera Reed graduated with her BSME in 2010, and is currently pursuing a PhD in mechanical engineering at University of California at Berkeley.  The title of her proposed research project is "Analysis of Molten Glass in Direct Absorption Receivers." Here is a brief description written by Ruth:

"In direct absorption receivers, the working fluid is exposed to solar flux directly. One of the benefits of direct exposure is that the working fluid does not encounter temperature drops since it does not get absorbed by another material. This helps to increase the working fluid temperature and to increase the efficiency of the system. It also reduces costs of materials and damages that could be caused when the working fluid runs through tubes. In addition, the working fluid can absorb higher solar fluxes as compared to conventional receivers, which helps to reduce the size of the absorber surface as well. This potentially increases the efficiency of the system since it decreases the losses due to re-radiation.

Molten salt has been use in CSP technologies as a working fluid due to its excellent heat transfer properties. Molten salt main disadvantage is its operation temperature range which ranges between 300C and 580C. In order to increase the efficiency of CSP technologies, the operation temperature needs to increase from 800C to 1000C.

Another possible excellent working fluid is molten glass. Molten glass shows similar values for heat capacities and thermal conductivities as molten salt. However, molten glass has greater viscosities at high temperatures compared to molten salt. Higher viscosities are of a major advantage for a working fluid since it shows that the working fluid will be able to retain higher temperatures when it goes through the Rankine cycle.

The main goal is to analyze molten glass to predict their outlet temperatures, calculate their heat transfer coefficient and its efficiency."

solar tower

Concentrating solar tower power plant with direct absorption receivers (image courtesy Herrera Reed)


Manuel AlhumadaManuel Ahumada will receive his BSME in June 2013.  In regards to his plans, he is almost certainly settled on attending Stanford, and plans to send in his acceptance on April 15th. He intends on obtaining a Ph.D in mechanical engineering focusing on robotics and control systems. After that, he plans on continuing his research efforts as a professor. He has grown a liking for both research and helping people reach their goals, and feels as though being a professor would definitely allow him to continue both while being a positive role model for future students.

We will check in with Manuel in the fall when he is settled at a school and a research project, so stay tuned for further news.