Member Spotlight: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

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The Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is pushing green technology forward with a $328,120 award from National Science Foundation (NSF). The I-Light member school is partnering with Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis to advance wave rotor combustion technology used with gas turbine engines.

The research will improve fuel efficiency and decrease pollution from aircrafts and power plants, while also enabling the development of more vehicles capable of operating on domestic natural gas instead of imported petroleum fuels. These advancements could save the United States an estimated $10 billion in fuel and 100 megatons of carbon dioxide.

To make this possible, scientists at the Combustion and Propulsion Research Laboratory at IUPUI are studying wave rotors - an energy conversion device that harnesses pressure waves to compress gas and burn fuel more efficiently. Through previous collaborations with Rolls Royce, IUPUI professor Razi Nalim successfully demonstrated wave rotor combustion technology in 2009.

The new grant will build upon Nalim’s previous findings and help researchers better understand how physical and chemical processes interact during the re-ignition phase of combustion in a pressure-boosting wave rotor. Scientists will learn how to quickly and consistently ignite fuel with a puff of hot gas, especially in diluted fuel concentrations that prevent the formation of nitrogen oxide pollution.

The project design bridges the gap between research and practice by allowing a mechanical engineering doctoral student to work as an intern for three summers at Rolls Royce. With the help of a $90,000 Rolls Royce supplement, the student intern will work with IUPUI professors to reduce fuel consumption, carbon emissions, and the weight of gas turbines by about 20 percent each.

The project will enable innovative combustion methods that will add pressure-boost combustors to power generation gas turbines and aircraft jet engines. IUPUI’s research could also lead to more reliable ignition in trucks and trains, novel medium and small-scale power generators, efficient hybrid vehicles, and portable power units.