Life After Teaching: Horst Richter
By Anna Fiorentino
October 2012 • CoolStuff
Horst Richter may have retired from teaching in 2008, but he still occupies office number 114 in Cummings Hall. The long-time fixture—and Thayer School's first director of undergraduate studies—took a few minutes to reflect on three decades of teaching courses from Thermodynamics, his favorite, to one he created for all Dartmouth students called Technology of Sailing, and his current role as a researcher and advisor.
What have you been up to since retiring from Thayer?
As a retired professor, I have the unique advantage of working patiently, and slowly, on an interesting project I stumbled on at Thayer—one that very few have explored. I am attempting solve one of the problems of cold spray technology.
What exactly is cold spray technology?
In thermal and cold gas spray systems, small particles are injected into a gas stream. This gas-particle, two-phase mixture is accelerated to supersonic velocities in a converging-diverging nozzle, basically a spray gun, that is aimed at a substrate to be coated. In a process similar to spray painting, the particles have high velocities at the point of impact on the substrate so they deform plastically and adhere to the surface. In order to design the cold spray nozzle correctly, we need to understand the momentum and heat transfer phenomena for small particles at supersonic or transonic velocities. In collaboration with Dr. Chi-Yang Cheng from ANSYS, Inc., we have been developing mathematical models and running numerous computer simulations in an effort to put together a set of heat transfer correlations for these particular flows. These transport phenomena are also of interest in explosions, if small combustible particles are entrained.
What brought you to Thayer School in the first place?
In 1972 I came to Thayer from Germany to research for a year, after I was invited by former professor Graham Wallis. In 1975 I took a faculty position and moved here permanently. Since then, for nearly 40 years, I have been going back to Germany at least once a year, sometimes to visit friends and extended family and other times to do work.
What work brought you back to Germany?
Thirty years ago, a Germany colleague of mine and I initiated and continued to be involved with Thayer's first German study abroad program in Aachen, Germany, and every year we had three students coming from Aachen. It ceased to exist in 2004 when the German government stopped the program. Now, we do a separate German exchange program with a university in Hamburg, which I also initiated with another colleague in Germany.
Can you tell me about your experience with the America's Cup?
From 1995 to 1998 I worked with the America's Cup syndicate, called Young America. We were the first to introduce fluid dynamics evaluations of sail performance with a computer code. Two graduate students assisted me by computing the flow around sails and improving sail shape. Later in 2003, with the help of sail manufacturer North Sails, we did computations for other America's Cup syndicates like Stars & Stripes and Luna Rossa.
Why is it important to you to continue working at Thayer?
Thayer has gotten bigger every year since I arrived, but I would say the atmosphere has not changed at all. It is still the small collegial school that I initially fell in love with, and will continue to be a part of as long as the dean provides me with an office.