For decades, engineers have studied low-temperature combustion as a means of creating engines with diesel-like efficiency and no pollutant emissions. Yet, the very nature of low-temperature combustion involves a reaction with little active control: inject the fuels, mixing occurs, and then some time later, combustion starts.
To investigate a new technique for measuring the temperature of a low-temperature combustion reaction throughout that process, Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor David Rothamer has received the National Science Foundation 2011 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. Such a tool would help engineers understand what’s happening inside the cylinder and ultimately discover ways to optimize the reaction.
With his $405,000 award, Rothamer will research the use of phosphors—substances that emit light—for measuring the temperature of gases in combustion reactions. Phosphors are a useful tracking tool because they are not consumed in a combustion reaction and have easily detectable spectral lines that contrast with those of combustion products, which sometimes emit at ultraviolet frequencies that cannot be detected except in a vacuum. He also will offer a summer outreach program through the UW-Madison Great Lakes Bioenergy Center that will enable teachers to explore the combustion process, with a biofuels focus.
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