COMSOL Conference, Paris, France

Messel Bursar Tanya Hutter reports from the COMSOL Conference.

I attended the COMSOL Conference, which was held between 17 and 19 November 2010, and took place in Paris. This conference was intended mostly for users of the COMSOL Multiphysics simulation software; however, many people who are interested in using it also attended. The conference included exciting presentations, training sessions and networking events. This was a great opportunity to present work, get up to date with the recent progress and gain a better understanding of this software.

COMSOL Multiphysics is a powerful simulation tool based on the finite-element method, which can be applied to a variety of problems. Many works were presented at the conference as a talk or poster, covering a variety of subjects including chemistry, acoustics, heat transfer, electronics, fluid dynamics and many more. In addition, people from industry attended; they have showed how COMSOL was used to help design and develop better products. It was very interesting to see how simulations can be applied to real-world problems.

Currently, I am in my second year of a PhD in Physical Chemistry. My work is mostly experimental, and I use simulations to help me understand, predict and visualise physical phenomena. The goal of my research is to design and fabricate optical sensors based on light-matter interactions using waveguides, optical fibres and plasmonics.

At the conference I presented a poster ‘Theoretical study of porous silicon waveguides and their applicability for vapour sensing’, and also submitted a paper that will be published in the conference proceedings. This work includes theoretical calculations and simulations to study, design and optimize optical structures for sensing based on nano-structured porous silicon. This material is highly porous, and therefore, has a very large surface area which is important for sensing applications. In addition, due to the small pore size, organic vapours readily condense inside them causing a substantial change in material’s optical properties.

I have gained several benefits from this conference: I attended three mini-courses which provided me with greater understanding on how to use the software for computing and solving problems in optics, microfluidics and heat-transfer. I was able to ask questions and discuss issues which are related to my research with other experienced researchers, and it was very useful to get feedback and comments on work that I have done. Several keynote talks were given by people from industry, which showed how simulations can be applied to real life applications to design working products. A major benefit for me was to meet the people behind COMSOL, and discuss specific issues that I have struggled with. Also, the conference included one-on-one sessions with the technical staff, which were extremely useful as I got the help that I needed with my particular problems.

Finally, I would like to thank SCI for the Messel Travel Bursary, which enabled me to attend this conference.

Tanya Hutter,
University of Cambridge

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