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), combustion associated with supersonic propulsion systems, ignition 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 members in the area?

Professor Emeritus
Professor Emeritus
Willett Professor, Department Head
Bliss Professor
Department Affiliate

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 498UAV: Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles
  • AE 564: Advanced Aero Propulsion Lab
  • AE 538/ME 501: Combustion Fundamentals

Get an advanced degree in aerospace engineering

The Department of Aerospace Engineering offers numerous options for advanced degrees,  including: 5-year Bachelor/Master of Science; Master of Science; Online Master of Science - Non-thesis; Master of Engineering in Aerospace Systems; Online MEng in Aerospace Systems; and Doctorate.

The deadline to apply for spring enrollment is December 1.

Start your application now

Not ready to apply? Contact us for more information.