LSU Mechanical Engineering Professor Seeks to Better Understand Fuel Droplet Dynamics in Propulsion Systems

Picture of a controlled propulsion textJuly 8, 2024 

BATON ROUGE, LA – LSU Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Shyam Menon is part of a collaborative project with Missouri University of Science and Technology that will develop strategies to facilitate a better understanding of the physics of high-speed propulsion systems. Such systems have application in the defense sector and civilian sector, including supersonic commercial transport and commercial rocketry for space access.

Menon is working with Missouri S&T Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Associate Professor Zhi Liang, who is principal investigator on the project. The work is sponsored by a three-year, $600,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Specifically, the duo is researching microscale liquid fuel droplets. Understanding the dynamics and evaporation of these droplets—typically .001-.01 cm in diameter and found in fuel sprays generated by high-speed propulsion systems used by the U.S. Air Force—in super critical environments is important to the design and development of advanced propulsion systems. Droplet dynamics can critically influence fuel-air mixing, effecting things like combustor stability, performance, and emissions.

“Our overarching goal is to develop strategies that will facilitate predictive modeling of high-speed propulsion systems,” Menon said. “This will be demonstrated through the multiscale modeling approach validated by experimental measurements of fundamental droplet dynamic processes at supercritical conditions. We will also develop a unique test data set for microscale droplets at extreme conditions that can be utilized by other researchers.”

Menon’s role in the project is to develop experimental capabilities for studying droplet processes at supercritical conditions and generate highly spatially- and temporally-resolved data to validate the research team’s multiscale modeling approaches. In his lab at LSU, he will examine droplet phase change and vaporization, droplet collisions, and droplet-shock wave interactions using a high-pressure/temperature test chamber that offers a view of what is taking place inside, a shock tube, and high-speed imaging diagnostics.

“Our project outcomes have the potential to increase [modeling fidelity]. We also hope to shed light on the underlying fluid dynamics and fluid physics at conditions that have been relatively unexplored in previous work. I would say our experimental approaches focusing on high spatial and temporal resolution could yield first-of-a-kind test data at these extreme conditions.”

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Contact: Joshua Duplechain
Director of Communications