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. 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 Combustion and Fuels Research Laboratory and the Pulsed Power Research Group continuously work to improve the efficiency of internal combustions engines by studying the combustion properties of conventional fuels under fuel-lean conditions. The basic understanding of the formative phase of plasma and its interactions with fuels, and the related challenge of understanding the complex interactions between non-equilibrium plasma and combustion chemistry will enable improved efficiencies for a wide range of engine technologies, and also reduce emissions, while having strong and powerful intellectual value for basic science. These studies are designed to develop new modern engines that produce less nitrogen oxides, one of the main ingredients required to form photochemical smog.
Research efforts also work on improving micro-scale combustion, premixed flame ignition by pulsed corona discharges, propagating fronts in motile bacteria, turbulent combustion, edge flames, flame propagation in confined geometries , internal combustion engines, premixed-gas combustion at microgravity, flame spread over solid fuel beds, and radiatively-driven flows and heat transfer.