Ben T. Zinn Combustion Lab researchers uncovered new insight into blowoff phenomenon
Tuesday, 03 January 2023


Always looking up. Combustion team wins best paper, from left, Benjamin Emerson, Timothy Lieuwen, and Kristopher Manion


Georgia Tech researchers working to understand a combustion phenomenon called blowoff have produced one the year’s best papers in liquid propulsion and propellant combustion, according to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

“This research is important because it works towards a cleaner, more sustainable future,” said Benjamin Emerson, co-author and a senior research engineer in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering. “It is an application area where I can take great pride, and this award is encouragement and validation that we are working in an important research area.”

The researchers, working in the Ben T. Zinn Combustion Lab, received a 2022 Best Paper award from AIAA for their study, “Simultaneous OH, CH2O and flow field imaging of near blowoff dynamics.” Along with Emerson, the paper was authored by researchers Raghul Kumar, Subodh Adhikari, and Professor Timothy Lieuwen from Georgia Tech, along with Christopher Fugger from Special Energies, LLC.

The Zinn Combustion Lab focuses on clean combustion by making renewable fuels reliable and efficient for the systems that use them. The award-winning paper examined a phenomenon called blowoff, where the flame is extinguished from the combustor. Blowoff poses a significant safety risk for introducing alternate fuels into aircraft engines, because it removes the airplane’s source of thrust.

“​​The paper applies cutting-edge laser-based diagnostics to uncover new insight into the blowoff phenomenon, and we accomplished this by partnering with other experts in combustion diagnostics,” Emerson said. “Going forward, our improved understanding of blowout can aid in the certification and deployment of alternative fuels.”

Lieuwen, Regents’ Professor and David S. Lewis, Jr. Chair, also participated in the study. 

“Georgia Tech is the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and one of the world’s leading colleges in clean energy,” said Lieuwen, who also directs the Strategic Energy Institute at Tech. “I enjoy working on important problems that deal with clean combustion and alternative fuels, plus I get to work with people like Ben [Emerson] who are huge assets to the College of Engineering.”

As best paper award winners, the authors will have the opportunity to attend the Liquid Propulsion Technical Committee meeting at SciTech 2023, the world’s largest forum for aerospace research and development. The paper also will be recognized in the November 2023 issue of Aerospace America and on the AIAA and SciTech websites.

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Emma Ryan