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IUPUI lab gets $328,000 for energy research project

Razi Nalim
Razi Nalim


January 24, 2013

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INDIANAPOLIS -- The National Science Foundation has given the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis a $328,120 grant to advance the study of wave rotor combustion technology used with gas turbine engines.

The research promises better fuel efficiency and less pollution from aircraft and power plants, and could also lead to the development of more vehicles operating on domestic natural gas instead of imported petroleum fuels.

Wave rotors are energy conversion devices that harness pressure waves to compress gases and burn fuel more efficiently. Under the grant, IUPUI professor Razi Nalim and other researchers at the Combustion and Propulsion Research Laboratory at IUPUI, in collaboration with Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, will seek to better understand the complex interaction of the physical and chemical processes that occur during the reignition phase of combustion in a novel pressure-boosting wave rotor.

Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis will supplement the NSF grant with a paid internship, valued at $90,000, for a doctoral student researcher.

“We are extremely excited about this NSF award and the continued collaboration with Rolls-Royce,” said David Russomanno, dean of the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI. “This type of interaction between industry and academic research is critical to our strategic plan and allows our faculty and students to compete at increasingly higher levels.”

Wave rotor technology has great promise of more fuel efficiency and reduced emissions from aircraft engines and electric power plants. The goal is concurrently reducing fuel consumption, carbon emissions and the weight of gas turbines by about 20 percent each.

Nalim's earlier research on wave rotor technology during his doctoral studies and his work at NASA led to the close collaboration between IUPUI and Rolls-Royce and a successful demon-stration of wave rotor combustion technology in 2009. In developing the grant proposal, Nalim drew on his many years of industry research experience in reducing emissions from internal combustion engines that burn natural gas. The new grant will provide deeper insight into how fuel could be rapidly and reliably ignited by a puff of hot gas, especially in diluted fuel concen-trations that prevent the formation of nitrogen oxide pollution.

“In researching wave rotor technology, we have been privileged for over a decade to work with support from Rolls-Royce, a global leader in aircraft engines and gas turbine power plants, with manufacturing and research facilities here in Indianapolis,” Nalim said. “The planned research will allow a mechanical engineering doctoral student to work as an intern at Rolls-Royce for three summers, while earning a Purdue engineering doctorate at IUPUI and helping us translate our research to practice in industry.”

The success of the IUPUI/Rolls-Royce project will lead to novel combustion methods that create a pressure boost in aircraft and electric power generation engines. By retrofitting or redesigning power generation gas turbines and aircraft jet engines with pressure-boost combustors, the United States can save an estimated $10 billion in fuel and 100 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

The project also enables more reliable ignition in trucks and locomotives using internal-combustion engines, allowing the substitution of less expensive domestic gas fuels for diesel refined from imported petroleum. Additionally, the project can enable innovative medium- and small-scale power generators as well as more efficient hybrid vehicles and portable power units.