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Release: March 5, 1999

UI College of Engineering space shuttle project receives $339,000 NASA grant

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa College of Engineering project that flew aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in November 1997 has received a four-year, $339,000 grant from NASA's Microgravity Research Division, effective January 1999.

The project, called ELF (for Enclosed Laminar Flames), is an investigation of ways to make jet engines burn cleaner and more reliably. Principal investigator L.D. Chen, professor of mechanical engineering and interim director of the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) at the University of Iowa, said that the grant will enable his research team to analyze past results and plan future research. "Under the terms of this award, we will be able to compete to re-fly the project aboard a future space shuttle mission and to conduct a follow-up study of the November 1997 investigation," Chen said.

The ELF investigation, which has operated for the past four years under a $490,000 NASA grant, uses space as a laboratory to study the characteristics of jet engine flames. Chen said that jet engine flame out and emission of nitrogen oxides and soot can best be studied in the near-weightless environment of space before trying to alleviate the problems in a gravity environment. He noted that in addition to jet engines, gas-fired furnaces and fireplaces may one day benefit from the study of more stable gas flames.

Chen's co-investigators on the project are Dennis P. Stocker and John E. Brooker, both research scientists at NASA-Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio. The ELF investigation is also supported by engineering expertise and experimental hardware developed by NASA.