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New NSF EiR grant to advance hypersonic flight research at Tuskegee

October 07, 2019

Contact: Brittney Dabney, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Dr. John Solomon

Tuskegee University’s College of Engineering recently secured a new grant from the National Science Foundation that will provide some tremendous thrust to its cutting-edge research in solving the challenges of hypersonic flight.

The multi-disciplinary research team led by Dr. John T. Solomon, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and the project’s principal investigator, received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Excellence in Research (EiR) program to develop a novel fuel-air mixing technology for hypersonic applications.

The hypersonic project will allow Tuskegee researchers to study active fuel-air mixing technology – essential for developing faster and more reliable transportation systems that can fly several times faster than currently possible.

“With this grant, we are able to bring to Tuskegee University expensive and very sophisticated high-speed flow diagnostic systems to advance the level of hypersonic flight. These technologies would allow us cut a two-hour flight between Atlanta and Washington, D.C., down to 10 minutes,” Solomon explained.

Dr. Chitra Nayak

Specific project tasks include quantitative characterization of mixing through the measurement of seed particle density distribution using planar laser-induced florescence (PLIF), and velocity and vorticity field measurement using particle image velocimetry (PIV). Solomon said the project uses an injection system that consists of two co-axial nozzles: a central nozzle surrounded by an annular one, through which air and fuel can be injected simultaneously.

“The innovative concept for the proposed injection system is its ability to pulse the central air jet at very high frequencies — 20,000 to 30,000 pulses per second — and at supersonic velocity, which will lead to tailored entrainment and improved mixing at high-speed” Solomon further noted.

In addition to the various research tasks, the project initiative aims to prepare Tuskegee students for the next step in their academic studies and professional careers by providing them with challenging research opportunities.

Dr. Mandoye Ndoye

“To help our students to challenge our current research understandings, we need specific and tailored learning plans. Targeted infusion of advanced topics useful in research to an undergraduate-level fluid mechanics course will provide additional support, and access to students whose pre-college situations may otherwise preclude success in engineering research” he said.

Other members of the Tuskegee research team include Dr. Mandoye Ndoye of the Department of Electrical Engineering, and Dr. Chitra Nayak of the Department of Physics. Assisting them will be Dr. Philip Kreth of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Tennessee Space Institute.

For Solomon, this project is his third grant funded by the NSF within the last five years. He was also selected as a summer faculty fellow this year to participate in California’s NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which supports the space agency’s ongoing Mars 2020 mission project.

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