This research will leverage extreme-scale computing to predict how plasmas could be used to control combustion with the goal of paving the way for cleaner-burning combustors and more reliable and higher performance jet engines.

Plasma with cross flow.

Plasma with cross flow.

Combustion is and will remain a key component of countless engineering systems as it is central to propulsion, materials processing, fuel conversion, and power generation.

In a normal combustion event, many steps occur between the spark and the firing of an engine. Current technology doesn’t allow for control of the steps that happen in between. However, plasma – a gas that is transformed into a new state of matter when its atoms are ionized– offers a unique way to control the turbulent combustion to boost performance in a range of applications and has properties that enable intervention at intermediary steps. Plasma can create the same chemical species that occur during normal combustions and also can produce heat during the different phases, making the chemical process happen faster.

By using plasmas as a control mechanism, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Ohio State University researchers believe they can manage the chemical process, thereby reducing emissions of greenhouse gases into the environment. Plasmas could also help stabilize flames for hypersonic, high-speed jet engines, in which air passes through so fast that the flame can be extinguished.

Researchers will be working to create better tools for managing efficient data structures, mitigating the irregularities that come with both extreme-scale computing and the fluid nature of the chemical processes, developing novel computational and programming tools for mapping hardware architectures, and design simulation models specifically for turbulence, combustion, plasma dynamics and the electro-chemical properties of surfaces.

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