Combustion and Propulsion

Why combustion and propulsion?

Propulsion encompasses all aerospace systems generating thrust. Depending on the flight environment and the performance objectives, the range of technologies employed is vast. Orbital flight often relies on electric propulsion, where thrusters leverage the momentum of ionized gases accelerated in electromagnetic fields to control spacecrafts’ trajectories. Rocket engines and gas turbines, on the other hand, rely on the reactions between fuel and oxidizer molecules (combustion), and the heat it produces to expand the exhaust gases and ultimately generate thrust. Regardless of whether the aircraft cruises at subsonic, supersonic or hypersonic speeds, the air surrounding it supplies the oxidizer. The tremendous thrust levels required to lift rockets off the ground however, together with the absence of an atmosphere in space, means that rockets have to carry both fuel of oxidizer, which determines in particular the state and composition of the fuel source.

What is going on in combustion and propulsion research at Illinois?

The efforts of the scientists at Illinois aim at improving the performances of existing propulsion devices, and to propose innovative solutions to outstanding issues. This includes addressing ever more stringent regulations on pollutant emissions (soot, carbon dioxide) by understanding the multi-physics of combustion (interactions between chemistry, transport, and acoustics, both experimentally and computationally), exploring new control strategies (plasmas), and understanding the thermo-acoustic instabilities combustion systems are prone to when operated under leaner conditions. Finally, improving electric thrusters technology is also central to both efficiency and the longevity of satellites.

Who are the Faculty in this area?

  • D. Bodony - Aeroacoustics, Computational fluid dynamics, combustion

  • J. Buckmaster (Professor Emeritus) - Fluid mechanics, applied mathematics, combustion

  • G. Elliott - Thermal and fluid sciences, experimental techniques with an emphasis on laser based diagnostic techniques, experimental supersonic and subsonic fluid mechanics, combustion, propulsion, thermal spray coating technologies, nanomaterial coatings and synthesis, aerodynamics, turbulence, acoustics, signal processing, engineering design and computational fluid dynamics.

  • Jonathan Freund- Jet aeroacoustics; compressible turbulence; biomedical fluid mechanics (esp: blood flow and lithotripsy); complex fluids; uncertainty quantification; fluid dynamics; high-performance computing; turbulence and turbulence simulation; combustion (with plasma coupling)

  • Philippe Geubelle- Computational solid mechanics, computational aeroelasticity, fracture mechanics, novel material design, composite materials, multiscale modeling

  • Julia Laystrom-Woodard-

  • Vincent Le Chendec- Reactive multiphase systems, multiphase and turbulence modeling, thermo-acoustic instabilities, numerical simulation and modeling of complex multiphase flows; primary atomization; bubble formation in wave breaking

  • Deborah Levin- Theoretical particle approaches to modeling extreme thermochemical non-equilibrium, micro-propulsion, ionic liquids, electrosprays, theoretical particle approaches to modeling hypersonic laminar shock – boundary layer interactions, particle approaches applied to chemically reacting flows, high performance computing, propulsion, thermal protection materials, space environment, high-energy chemically-reacting flows

  • Marco Panesi- Aerothermodynamics, plasma discharges, non-equilibrium flows, radiation hydrodynamics, computational fluid dynamics.

Courses in this Area

  • AE 202: Aerospace Flight Mechanics
  • ME 404: Intermediate Thermodynamics
  • AE 433: Aerospace Propulsion
  • AE 434: Rocket Propulsion
  • AE 435: Electric Propulsion
  • AE 460: Aerodynamics & Propulsion Lab
  • AE 564: Advanced Aero Propulsion Lab
  • AE 538/ME 501: Combustion Fundamentals