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Mechanical Engineering Trio Conducts Research Through Fellowship

October 17, 2018
Men work in a lab setting
UW Mechanical Engineering graduate students Matthew Brown (left) and Marcus Brown set up for combustion research in a UW engineering lab.

Three individuals from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wyoming made the most of an opportunity from the U.S. Air Force to further research into combustion measurement.

Erica Belmont, an assistant professor in mechanical engineering, and two students took part in the U.S. Air Force Summer Faculty Fellowship Program (SFFP) from June through August at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The program, administered by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, funded Belmont and UW mechanical engineering graduate student Matthew Brown for the summer. They were joined by graduate student Marcus Brown, who received a different source of Air Force funding to participate.

“Spending a summer conducting research at the Air Force Research Laboratory was a wonderful opportunity for me, as I was able to work with internationally renowned researchers and observe several interesting experiments,” Marcus Brown says. “Over the summer I learned many different experimental techniques, including particle imaging velocimetry (PIV) and planar laser-induced fluorescence (PLIF), which can both help characterize flames.”

It was Belmont’s third time researching at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the second time she’s been funded by the SFFP to conduct summer research. It was the first instance in which Belmont was able to involve UW graduate students in the project. Belmont’s research areas at UW include combustion, solid fuels (coal, biomass), alternative fuels and renewable energy.

“Working in the lab with some of the best researchers in the country was incredibly useful,” Matthew Brown adds. “Their expertise and willingness to lend a hand allowed us to develop experimental techniques quickly, thus allowing us to collect vast amounts of important data.”

The objectives of the SFFP include enhancement of research interests and capabilities of faculty in the U.S. academic community, and to elevate awareness in the U.S. academic community of Air Force research needs and foster continued research at their respective institutions.

Belmont says the latest research conducted this summer continued an ongoing collaboration she’s had with researchers at Wright Patterson Air Force Base for several years. The UW trio utilized various laser diagnostic and other optical techniques to characterize a low-pressure flame facility.

“The purpose of the facility is to allow for measurement of flame-burning speed, which is a fundamental property of combustible mixtures,” Belmont says. “The ability to measure flame speeds can aid in the characterization of newly developed fuels, such as bio-derived fuels. In the process of conducting research at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, we learned new techniques that we plan to implement at UW.”

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