Two AE researchers receive awards from NASA and DOD
Assistant professors Laura Villafañe Roca and Francesco Panerai in the Dept. of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently received awards from NASA and the Department of Defense, respectively.
Villafañe, along with her co-principal investigators Gregory Elliott and Joshua Rovey, received one of just 14 Early Stage Innovations awards from NASA's Space Technology Research Grants program. The goal of these awards is to accelerate the development of groundbreaking, high-risk/high-payoff space technologies to support the future space science and exploration needs of NASA, other government agencies, and the commercial space sector.
Her research project is entitled, “Fundamental experiments of jet impingement on granular surfaces.”
“When landing vehicles on the Moon or Mars, the descent engine exhaust plume interacts with the surface of the gravitational body, lifting dust particles that pose a significant safety hazard,” Villafañe said. “There is a need for a better understanding of these complex interactions that leads to improved physics-based models with predictive capabilities.”
Villafañe said she and her team will develop a suite of experimental techniques and non-intrusive diagnostics for probing the gas jet, particulate and granular media dynamics, and apply them in a series of well-controlled, systematic, and fundamental sub-scale experiments reproducing the main non-dimensional aerodynamic parameters of the plume surface interactions regime.
“Specifically, we plan to develop experimental techniques that combine, for the first-time, laser induced fluorescence based diagnostics, optical attenuation tomography, high speed imaging with particle streak tracking, optical range sensing, and embedded sensors,” she said. “The combined data on fluid, dispersed particles and granular media dynamics will help understanding the complex interactions and will be valuable to modelers for validation and verification of numerical tools.”
Panerai received an award from the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program for his facilities proposal entitled, “Plasmatron Wind Tunnel for Hypersonic Materials Research.” In this year’s competition for the awards, 724 proposals were submitted and only 172 accepted.
“Predicting the response of surfaces and materials to extreme conditions is key for the development of hypersonic systems,” Panerai said. “Effective thermal protection systems of hypersonic vehicles must withstand extreme heat and mechanical loads while anticipating changes in aerodynamic shape and surface properties.”
Panerai’s award will support a new plasmatron facility for research on a broad range of critical stressors on hypersonic materials.
“The plasmatron enables accurate simulation of high-enthalpy reactive flows encountered during hypersonic flight. The electrodeless plasma generation provides a chemically pure environment that is ideal to study flow-material interactions,” he said. “We will purchase critical plasmatron components, to be integrated with state-of-the-art diagnostic, high-fidelity modeling simulations and advanced materials characterization. We anticipate the plasmatron facility to enable a leap in our understanding of hypersonic materials and to constitute a fundamental research asset for the Air Force and the hypersonic community.”
Both of these projects are associated with the Center for Hypersonics and Entry Systems Studies at the University of Illinois.