Somerville doctoral candidate and Stipendiary Lecturer Tom Hickling (2018, Engineering) has won the 2020 ASME Gas Turbine Award for his brilliant work revealing critical new insights into established wisdom in his field.

Minimising the amount of clearance between different components is important for engine efficiency, but the heat involved in operation causes them to expand and throw off the sensitive margins, presenting a conundrum for engineers trying to fine-tune their designs.

Tom and his co-author and DPhil supervisor Professor Li He noticed how there was no agreement in the engineering community on which methods to use to predict heat transfer with the necessary precision. They set out to reduce the confusion and put established wisdom under the microscope.

Their work had some remarkable findings: a popular method for reducing the cost of simulating fluid dynamics has serious flaws which had previously been missed when applied to heat transfer.

“The credit must go to Tom who has been such a great fast learner, thinker and doer,” said Professor He.

“In winning the ASME Gas Turbine Award with his 1st year DPhil effort, he may well be unique among all past winners, including many renowned names in the field.”     

The award, which was established in 1963, is the most prestigious and competitive ASME award in the field of Turbomachinery for power generation and aviation propulsion. Over 1000 peer-reviewed papers published in the ASME Turbo Expo Congress are considered for the honour each year.

The award has only been won by an Oxford-based team once before in its history, when Denis Doorly and Martin Oldfield took the prize in 1985.

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