The University of Western Australia

UWA Staff Profile

Ipsum Lorem

Dr Milan Patel

Research Fellow
Mechanical and Chemical Engineering, School of

Contact details
School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering
The University of Western Australia (M050)
35 Stirling Highway
I conduct research into the rheology and forming of complex fluids (experiments and finite element simulations) and the associated industry-standard mechanical characterisation tests. I also work on reservoir simulations of CO2 sequestration with enhanced gas recovery. I use semi-analytical and finite element models to solve problems in these areas, with experimental validation conducted wherever possible.
Key research
I developed the most physically representative finite element models of particulate paste extrusion, film formation of polymer nanocomposites and dough net shape forming via sheeting. These models were designed to help solve processing problems such as phase separation during extrusion, cracking in high-performance polymer nanocomposite coatings and mass flow rate instability during dough sheeting. I have expertise in simulating many rheologies of engineering interest, i.e. Newtonian, non-linear elastic/viscoelastic, Mullins damage, plasticity/viscoplasticity and critical state/purely dilatant soils. In addition to forming processes, I have modelled the mechanical characterisation tests used to design several feedstock materials, revealed critical flaws in their operation and described replacement test protocols.
Over the past three years, I expanded my research to include reservoir simulation of CO2 sequestration with Enhanced Gas Recovery – EGR. Final gas recovery in a EGR setting depends in part on CO2 injection rate, physical dispersion between CO2 and nascent natural gas and rock tortuosity. My paper in the high-impact journal ENERGY is the first systematic study of the former two parameters on the efficacy of EGR with the first use of measured data for the latter parameter. I conducted the first systematic study of well depth and the role of formation water on the efficacy of EGR at realistic (supercritical) conditions. For this, I developed a novel, robust method for simulating chemical equilibrium, i.e. algebraic equations, simultaneously with the partial differential equations describing advection, dispersion and fluid flow in porous media. This method employed Lagrange multipliers to extend the finite element modelling capabilities within COMSOL Multiphysics to include vapour-liquid equilibrium within concentrated mixtures, and simplified modelling as a custom-designed thermochemical ‘flash’ module was no longer required.
Between 2010-2014, I conducted numerical and experimental research into grain food processing and testing. In 2013, a collaborative paper displaying the successful baking of Indian flatbreads using 100% Australian Sweet Lupin (ASL) flour added strength to lobbying efforts by the industry body Lupin Foods Australia and the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia to reverse a two-decade old Government of India ban on ASL imports.
My PhD at the University of Cambridge focussed on the deployment of soil mechanics-derived constitutive models within chemical engineering-inspired process models for extrusion. It resulted in the first 'viscous soil' rheological model to be used to analyse the stability of flow of viscoplastic, phase-separating pastes.
Previous positions
1/2010 – 4/2014 - Research scientist
Food Futures National Research Flagship, Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Perth, Australia

Project – Improved market share for Australian export grain through process engineering research
Supervisor - Dr Sumana Chakrabarti-Bell, Research Director, Centre for Grain Food Innovation

· Explained mechanisms of dough flow through a small bakery-scale dough sheeter using finite element simulations (ABAQUS) and experiments [10]. Conducted high-level design and commissioning of a pilot-scale dough sheeting line with novel bidirectional roll force sensors for improving flow stability [5]. Developing world-first process model of line [16-18]. This will assist sheeting line designers, control engineers and operators to make increased use of cheaper Australian flours which feature relatively ‘inelastic’ rheological responses.

· Demonstrated successful baking of high-nutrition, high-satiety Indian flatbreads using 100% Australian Sweet Lupin (ASL) flour in place of Indian flour [9]. Previously thought impossible, this supported successful industry lobbying to lift the Government of India ban on importing ASL.

· Demonstrated how industry-standard test methods for dough strength and elasticity are unfit for purpose using experiments and finite element simulations [7-8]. Proposed improved tests that demonstrate relevant aspects of process rheology for sheeting processes [1,10], highlighting the potential of cheaper Australian flours for economically competitive breadmaking via sheeting.
9/2008 – 11/2009 - Postdoctoral researcher

Department of Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Project – Modelling of film formation from nanostructured waterborne polymer latexes, part of EU Framework 6 program – ‘Nanostructured waterborne polymer films with outstanding properties’ (NAPOLEON)

· Co-developed process model for the minimum temperature at which a suspension of polymer nanoparticles with hard inclusions can form a crack-free nanocomposite film

· Derived relationships between minimum film formation temperature and critical formulation parameters including inclusion volume fraction, inclusion aspect ratio and shear stress mobilised at polymer-inclusion interface [12]. This model is currently the only engineering science-based model for formulation design of polymer-silica nanocomposite film feedstocks.
10/2003 – 5/2008 - PhD
Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Thesis – “Theoretical aspects of paste formulation for extrusion”
Supervisors – Prof. Ian Wilson (primary referee) & Prof. Stuart Blackburn (leads the Interdisciplinary Research Centre in Materials Processing, University of Birmingham, UK)

· Developed first 2‑D, two-phase finite element model of ram extrusion of particulate pastes. This permitted characterisation of undesired phase separation during extrusion [13]. This is beyond the scope of 1‑D models.

· For the first time, forming pressures were resolved into components due to different rheological mechanisms - elasticity, plasticity, viscoplasticity [2] and wall friction. This allows paste formulation design to be more easily linked with manufacturing process design, e.g. effect of liquid phase rheology on optimal extrusion die shape, extruder wall material, etc.

· Published novel scalar parameter for resolving any type of flow into extensional, shear and mixed-mode flow [2]. Predicted how forming geometry and extrusion speed affects flow field and likelihood of phase separation during uniaxial compression testing [2], thus revealing the limits of accuracy of this common rheological characterisation test.
Current external positions
I recently began a collaboration with the University of Cambridge to extend my previous finite element models of small bakery-scale dough sheeting to multiple roll-stand sheeting lines. This will provide insights into the lateral spread of dough during sheeting, the effect of belt and roller speeds on tension in the dough sheet (leading to surface defects and fracture) and on rheology-based control schemes for dough sheeting lines.

Visiting Scientist with CSIRO Agriculture and Food
Published three papers on food process engineering & testing. One further paper is under review and one is under preparation.
New and noteworthy
For my close collaboration with COMSOL AB over the past few years, I was gifted the first complimentary consultant's license for COMSOL Multiphysics ever awarded in Australia or New Zealand.
Research profile
Research profile and publications

The University of Western Australia

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Last updated:
Tuesday, 3 November, 2015 2:39 PM