Knowing how heat transfers through an object is wildly important when designing, building and maintaining almost any object. When you first learn about heat transfer, it is often assumed that the object is uniform (i.e. has the same consistency) throughout. This is most often not the case.
Dr. Herb Kunze works with students and collaborators to understand heat transfer through porous media, that is, materials that have a solid portion, and a set of holes (which can be filled with another material, or with air or water).
Examples of porous media include natural materials such as rocks, soil, bones and tissue, and artificial materials such as concrete or ceramic. The mathematical analysis of porous media can be found in many areas of applied science, such as petroleum engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, soil science, geology, material sciences and many more.
Since porosity in materials can take many different forms, analyzing the mathematics behind heat transfer in these materials can be a complicated task. Traditional methods tend to be extremely slow due to the complexity of the material, so Dr. Kunze and his group have worked on developing and understanding mathematical techniques to solve this difficult problem.