Aerospace and Defense
Non-toxic propellant-based systems for exploration missions offer several operational and performance advantages such as superior ground handling, reduced corrosion and leakage, materials compatibility, lower mass, low cost, and system complexity. Thus, they continue to be the preferred choice for exploration missions. Our propulsion research program aligns with NASA's interest in advanced cryogenic engine development by performing fundamental research on ignition, high-heat-transfer thrust chambers and injector dynamics and developing enabling technologies for LOX/Hydrocarbon engines. The in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) team efforts are focused on developing engineering solutions to exploit space resources for the production of propellant and other valuable materials. The current topics are production of structural materials and extraction of water and other volatiles from lunar and Martian regolith.
Structure and Materials
Due to the need for enhanced safety, efficiency and performance of next generation material systems, the development of novel structures and materials has been continuously grown in the past years. Advanced materials with extremely high temperature endurance, high strength/weigh ratio, energy conversion and utilization capability, and multi-functionality are of special interests to both commercial and defense applications. Our research team primarily focuses on the development of advanced high temperature ceramics, innovative fiber reinforced composites, nano/micro functional coatings, and multi-functional materials. Research activities include modeling, fabrication, characterization, and device evaluation of these materials systems with the application for turbines, ultra-sonic aerospace vehicles, naval ships, and unmanned aero vehicles, etc.
Advanced Fossil Power
Development of advanced turbine and gasification technologies for coal-derived syngas and hydrogen is critical to the next generation fossil power plants, such as integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) with carbon capture and sequestration. >Advanced turbine technologies allow for gas-turbine based clean, efficient, and affordable electric power production and will ensure the continued use of coal, the nation's largest fossil energy resource. Our major research activities in advanced turbine technologies involve the development of fluidized bed and underground coal gasification technologies, fuel flexible combustors, high temperature materials and thermal barrier coatings for syngas and high hydrogen fuel turbines, and advanced materials for sensors.
CO2 Capture and Storage
Oxy-fuel combustion is a promising post combustion CO2 capture technique currently being considered by the U.S. Department of Energy's Innovations for Existing Plants Program. Oxy-fuel combustion technologies have the potential to meet the goal of capturing 90 percent CO2 capture withoutincreasing the cost of electricity by more than 35 percent. Our oxy-fuel combustion research focuses on developing new and retrofitting technologies for gas turbine power cycles and pulverized coal based generation units. Chemical looping combustion (CLC) is an advanced technology for using fossil fuels with inherent CO2 capture. Our CLC technology solutions involve novel cycles and developing metal oxides to transfers oxygen from air to natural gas or synthesis gas produced by coal/biomass gasification. Our current research efforts in geological sequestration of CO2 include development of mathematical pore-network simulations based on coupled variational techniques.
Renewable and Alternative Energy
The department's research program on high capacity factor renewable power generation focuses on making concentrating solar power (CSP) systems cost competitive for intermediate and base load power markets . New paradigms and innovative technology concepts for advanced heat transfer fluids and solar thermochemical cycles seek to improve the performance of CSP systems. Our research efforts are aimed at developing turbulent heat transfer correlations and flow models of nanofluids for advanced nanofluids based receivers and storage for CSP systems.
Additive Manufacturing Technology
Additive Manufacturing (AM) allows us to take a computer-aided design of an object and quickly create a three-dimensional model or mold by precisely building up layers of material. It's an exciting technology that opens new worlds of research limited only by the imagination.
3D Structural Manufacturing
Our research team has been leading the convergence of AM and Direct Printing (DP) technologies over the past decade for the development of 3D Structural Electronics multi-material, heterogeneous, electronic structures exhibiting non-conventional 3D component placement and conductor routing. These efforts have resulted in numerous publications, patents, and more recently, a spin-off company that is focusing on applications of importance to the intelligence community and national defense.