Department of Aerospace Engineering
Researchers are measuring velocities of atmospheric high-speed fluids to improve detection of hazardous gases, develop aircraft and more.
Thanks in part to a $5 million grant from the Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI), Dr. Richard Miles is developing the Aerospace Laboratory for Lasers, ElectroMagnetics and Optics (ALLEMO). GURI, enacted in 2015 by Governor Greg Abbott, is aimed at helping public higher education institutions in Texas recruit distinguished researchers.
Within the center, Miles and his research team will study how femtosecond laser electronic excitation tagging (FLEET), which they developed, can be used to measure velocities of high-speed fluids in the atmosphere.
FLEET is a special velocimetry tagging technique that, according to an article written by Scientia.global, “takes advantage of unique properties of recombining nitrogen molecules by first dissociating them with a titanium-sapphire laser pulse with tens-to-hundreds of femtosecond duration. This short pulse avoids the formation of bright sparks and enables the writing of lines and patterns of dissociated species into the flow. After dissociation, the nitrogen atoms recombine, forming nitrogen molecules in a high-energy state that emits fluorescent red and infrared light for tens of microseconds (first positive emission).”
These emissions can be captured with a fast-shuttered camera, and aerodynamic flows can be followed in real time, without chemically or electronically altering any molecules. Because the flow is not disrupted with foreign gases or obstructive particles and provides immediate findings, it can potentially lead to unparalleled understandings of high-speed fluid mechanics. Benefits of Miles’ research include a better understanding of fluid dynamics processes, resulting in more advanced high-speed aircraft designs.
Work in the center will also focus on developing laser-based stand-off detection technologies that could have practical applications like the remote detection of hazardous gases for pollution monitoring, homeland defense and the detection of explosives. The technology could be extremely useful for many industries, including aerospace, petroleum and homeland security.
In addition, research is planned on plasma-driven and enhanced processes, including plasma-enhanced combustion, the use of plasmas for aerodynamic control, and plasma-enhanced energy conversion. These may lead to new methods to create higher-performance and safer aircraft with active surface-mounted devices, reduce the generation of pollutants in combustion and develop high-efficiency methods for electricity production.