Seven weeks, two projects, one city, and great friends

Seven weeks, two projects, one city, and great friends. My time spent here at Rice has been a great experience.

Last week I finished with my mechanical portion of my project. As I previously posted we were having issues with the module itself as I said it was “cracking under pressure, LITERALLY”. After the epoxy dried we tested immediately, it was going strong for the first few minutes and no pressure was building. Once the module was filled with water that we started to see the window bulging out, and when we started messing with the flow rates we heard some cracking. We continued to run the module when the first crack developed and a minute or two later another area of the module started spiting out water. At this point are current module is not fixable, however we have learned from the mistakes that were made here and have developed a few idea to fix these problems as we fabricate a new one.

This next week, I am finishing up my computational modeling, and even teaching one of my mentor the program so he can take over once I leave. At this point my number show that higher flux is produced when a flow rate is higher and when the feed side is at a higher temperature and is coated with carbon black. Right now I am running constant data only changing the flow channels. This number is important because it will be use as reference for the new module. It should take me a day or two too finish it and I should be at that point officially done.

Other than my research here, the rest of my time here was used to make great friends and visit great areas of Houston. Allowing us to research at different universities has allowed me to get out of my comfort area as well as make impeccable connections. I am however ready to go back home to see my family, then back to phoenix to see my friends to tell them about my seven week trip.

Later Alligators,


Under pressure

My head is spinning, two weeks left and i’m using every hour to my advantage.

Bright side, our mechanical skid is finally fully functioning!!! Last week we finished the fabrication of the skid and attached all the equipment on. The skid looks amazing so far my pride in my time being here. However, there was one thing that is giving us troubles and that is the module itself. The module is the heart of the skid, its where the water is distilled and it starting to crack under pressure, LITERALLY! We are having a hard time fixing the problem because we don’t now where the pressure is coming from, it should be a zero pressure system. The window is bulging out a bit so that means there is quite a bit of pressure that is building up. Right now our main goal is to fix the crack and hole from which it is leaking. We will then assess the problem by taking one of the temperature sensors out to leave a small hole where the pressure can alleviate itself. We are using epoxy to give it a sturdy fix and is expected to dry hopefully tomorrow. If everything goes well then we can hopefully get a week in of real time testing before I have to go.



As for my computational model, it is going good. I have been running data left and right. The use of the numbers have already proven that when the feed side of the module has a high flow rate as well as a high temperature we will produce more flux. It has also been able to show that the use of Nanoparticles (aka carbon particles) are beneficial to the module to the system as well because it also produces higher flux. The goal right know is to run data that test different channel length in which the water flows to see which is more efficient. Based on what produces the best flux, those measurements will go into making a newer and better module for the future.

Two weeks left, we got this!!!



Sorry I am a little late with my weekly blog but this past week has been really busy especially with the holiday weekend. Last Wednesday I started two online classes that I enrolled in through ASU. I’m taking a basic calculus III class, as well as a Beatles class (the musicians). So far Calc III has taken up a good chunk of my free time and a bit of my weekend, however, because of this 3 day weekend I am actually ahead of the class so I’m making sure I don’t fall behind.

As far as my work and projects go the mechanical project fabrication portion is taking a bit longer than should be to get done. This is mainly because of getting our hands on some tools to actual getting the work done. None the less, one of our group member brought some tools from home so we should be finish up this week. Everything is coming a long nicely, even though we don’t have everything on the skid yet we have been comissioning everything as it came in. The solar panel took some time to understand but with a little time and a call to customer service we understand our electrical source really well.

My computational modeling work has also been really rewarding, so far I have been just computing different numbers to see the change in flux and temperature throughout the system. It is taking a good amount of my time, mainly because once I started testing some longer module lengths, the longer it is taking for the program to run. For example I am running a geometry length of 0.5 cm with the permeate temperature at 45 C and flowing in at 4 cm/s, it is going to take about 25-30 min to run the program. As to a smaller length like 0.02 with the same parameter which can take about 8-10 min. I have learned that once the program has runned a few times it take the time is shorter by a few minutes. The beauty of technology, what takes me 30 min to crunch a few number would probably take a few days to run actual number on a full scale system.

Till next time,

Hazel nut (Evelyn)

4 Weeks Left

This internship has moved way to fast, it is hard to believe that we only have about 4 more week left until we leave. Its even harder to believe that we have to finish our research in that time as well. So far both of my projects have come a long way since I have been here and they just keep building. So far as part of my Mechanical Project we are almost done with the fabrication of the skid. I think we could have been done since last week but parts have been getting here very slowly. As of today everything is sitting in our lab and is waiting to be screwed, zip-tied, and drilled on to the framework of our product. The only thing that I am dreading at this point is figuring out the configuration of the solar module and connecting everything correctly. I have been reading the manual as closely as I can and so far I feel like once I start connecting the solar panel I feel like I will  know what to do. We should be done with the fabrication by today or tomorrow, and the rest of the week will involve us commissioning the whole system. Commissioning, will help us see if all the part are working so when we start testing next week nothing goes wrong. IMG_0560

As for my Computational project, my program is processing data. I have only recorded one set of data points, and I hope to run more this week. So far the changeable parameter in this project are the the flow of water coming in from the permeate and the feed side of the MD module, the feed temperature, and the length of the module. The purpose of the computational model is to test certain geometries of MD modules, and which ever geometry that works the best will be built. In doing this it allows to build one or two good real models than building several through trial and error.


Like each of my projects I have been trying to take the most out of this trip as possible. This weekend a group of us went to NASA-Johnson Space Center, as well as the Holocaust Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts. And the weekend before that we went to the Houston Ballet where we saw Giselle, and went to the Galleria mall. Every stop we have made in Houston has been very memorable and fun, these next couple of week we want to go to the beach as well as the Natural Science Museum.  Four weeks left and i’m planning every second of it, can’t wait till next week to tell you about my progress.




Mechanical Engineer and Computational Mechanic, WHAT?

It is really hard to believe that week two went that quickly so much got done and so much more has to be done before my time here is over. So far my time here has involved me building and testing the material that are apart of our Solar MD system and another chunk of my time involves learning to process data on COMSOL. The best part of last week involved me finishing the the base of each project. For the Solar MD project, we were able to build the frame work for the skid on which the system will be laid on. For my computational model I was able to create to create functioning base that computes reasonable data. This next week will involve me finishing the building of each model, for our solar MD model we will attach the actual system (panels, tanks, flow-meter, etc.) to our framework. For my computational model I need to do a bit more programming to export data from the models that I have created. So far the program has been very rewarding, the technical work that I have been doing has gone from me handling a screwdriver and wrench to learning a new software as well as putting my programming skills to the test.


Solar MD

Week one at Rice, has been amazing. My roommate and I have met some international students and have been traveling Houston on our spare time. Other than my time visiting the city I got to meet Dr. Qilin Li as well as her research team. The project that I will be working on this summer is referred to as solar MD, or more formally solar membrane distillation. I will be working with the time to make a large scale model of a membrane distillation system that will be fully functional under the sun. Also when I meet Dr. Li an told her that I am getting a concentration in Computational mechanics she recommended working on COMSOL and making computational models that will test different types of membrane characteristics and see how they work. So my days here at Rice will be 60% working on the large scale solar MD system, and 40% working on COMSOL. This past week has consisted of me reading everything and anything on MD systems, as well as trying to configure the mathematical models for COMSOL. This upcoming week I will be getting my lab safety training and officially start working on the solar MD project. Monday morning should be busy but I’m ready!



New Adventure

From Tempe, Arizona to El Paso, Texas heading to Houston; I’m ready to set off on a new adventure in which I’ll visit a new city and new university.

I’m originally from El Paso but attend Arizona State University for school where I study Mechanical Engineering. I’ve been home in El Paso where I’m visiting my family before I head of to Rice to start my internship in Solar Membrane Distilation. All this travel has me living out of my suitcase but I enjoy it, it just means that a new adventure is waiting around the corner and I’m ready to take it. This internship at Rice is a stepping stone for me into the type of enviormental research that I love. I’m also a bit nervous because this is the first time I have ever done research to this intensity. I do know that once I get into the lab and meet everyone personally I can do very well on this project; I am the type of person who needs to get her hands on the project itself to understand it.

I’m heading out to Houston sometime this afternoon, it’s 3:00 am in El Paso and I’m re-packing my suitcase, charging my phone and studing the the university map and reviewing my trip. Although I am nervous I know these next seven week are going to be a blast!


Wish me luck,

Evelyn Holguin