Huang, Zhiwei

Research Topic: 

Next Generation Air-refrigerant Heat Exchangers


Story by Francesca Pascual

Ph.D. student Zhiwei Huang is currently working on a DOE-sponsored project entitled ‘Next Generation air to refrigerant heat exchanger’. For this task, she built a testing facility to assess a heat exchanger designed by fellow student Daniel Bacellar. Though her initial intentions were to build a facility that could be used for this project, she ended up creating a testing facility that could be used for many different heat exchangers. “Most testing facilities are only used for specific heat exchangers, then they are abandoned or taken apart afterwards,” Huang explains, “but my design is supposed to be used in many projects for ten years.” Both her testing facility and Bacellar’s heat exchanger were successful; after being recently printed by a 3-D printer, the heat exchanger has functioned effectively.

Changing the World with Engineering

Her interest in building a generalized testing facility stemmed from her desire to give students a way to create and test their own heat exchangers. In addition to that significant undertaking, Huang is working on her own heat exchanger. “My model is inspired by the human lung; it’s a fractal finless heat exchanger,” she says. She plans to use her own testing facility to test her heat exchanger once it’s complete.

Huang feels that engineering can solve problems practically. “Engineering can actually change the world. I can create solutions that will actually make a difference,” she mentions. She graduated from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China in 2013 with a degree in Building Science, and came directly to the United States after earning her bachelor’s degree. Huang is currently part of the Future Faculty Program. “I haven’t decided if I want to go into education or industry work after I graduate. The program is a good opportunity to see if academia would be a good fit for me,” she explains. Huang expects to graduate in 2017.

Technology is the New Magic

Originally from Henan Province in central China, Huang has only visited her home once during her three years in the U.S. “I am not homesick at all; I like exploring new things.”” she laughs. Though she has very little free time, she likes to spend it exploring new products and technologies on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Gadget Flow. “Research is fun, but bringing prototypes to market is more exciting. I like seeing the cool designs and technologies,” she said. She has also spent some time traveling, but mostly outside of the United States. “I’ve been to Thailand, Taiwan, Macau, and I went to Hong Kong Polytechnic University  for six months for an undergraduate exchange program,” she replies.  As a Harry Potter fan, Universal Studio in Orlando is her favorite place, which she had visited twice: “Every time I go, it is like an old dream comes true. However, as a graduate student, I’d say technology is the new magic.”