Combustion and Propulsion
Over 80% of the world’s energy production and use is based on the combustion of fossil fuels. Combustion is ubiquitous in traditional energy conversion systems such as automotive engines, stationary and aircraft gas turbines, rocket and space propulsion, electrical power generation, industrial furnaces, and home and institutional space heating. Moreover, emerging technology areas such as hypersonic propulsion, microscale power generation and material synthesis depend critically on chemically reacting flow processes. The world’s dependence on combustion processes has led to many technological challenges including air quality, energy efficiency, global warming, and fire/explosion safety.
The combination of fluid mechanics, heat and mass transport and chemical reaction results in an enormous range of temporal and spatial scales. Simulation is inherently challenging since the governing equations describing chemically reacting flows contain gradient terms such as convection and diffusion, volumetric source terms such as chemical reaction, and non-local terms such as radiation. This makes direct numerical simulation of complete systems such as internal combustion engines impossible, thus simplified models are essential.
This subject includes not only of flames in fuel-air mixtures but also topics as diverse as materials synthesis by exothermic self-sustaining chemical reactions, free-radical polymerization, and the dynamics of swarms of motile bacteria and biofilms.
USC’s research group in combustion contributes in a variety of ways to the solution of these technological problems, both by the development of improved models of combustion processes, experimental data, and the discovery of new phenomena. With the broad base of theoretical and practical knowledge obtained during their USC education, graduates of our program have taken positions in the aerospace industry, government laboratories and academic institutions.