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UW’s Belmont Awarded NASA Research Grant

June 24, 2016
two women wearing safety glasses examining samples on a table
UW mechanical engineering Assistant Professor Erica Belmont, left, here working in the lab with graduate student Emily Beagle, has received funding from NASA to study low-temperature flames. She also is involved in research regarding a high-moisture pelleting process for raw biomass material, which could reduce energy and production costs of pellets for biomass power and biofuel production. (UW Photo)

A University of Wyoming researcher has received funding from NASA to help understand experiments conducted on the International Space Station.

Assistant Professor Erica Belmont teaches and researches in the UW Department of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Science. She received word recently that her project would be among those funded by NASA, which will award about $8 million to 11 schools across the country for research and technology development projects in areas critical to the agency’s mission.

The UW project is titled “Experimental and numerical investigation of terrestrial stable cool flames for improved understanding of International Space Station droplet combustion experiments.” Each school will receive as much as $750,000 for work during a three-year period.

Belmont’s team will study low-temperature, or “cool,” flames using experiments and numerical flame simulations. The goal of the NASA project is to better understand the chemistry of these flames at low and high pressures, by comparing the findings of Belmont’s team to studies of cool flames conducted aboard the International Space Station.

The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) supports science and technology research and development at colleges and universities in areas such as remote sensing, nanotechnology, astrophysics and aeronautics. All of these are applicable to NASA’s work in earth science, aeronautics, and human and robotic deep space exploration.

In addition to her other research, Belmont has made waves thanks to her work with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

Belmont has been involved with the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES), a consortium that includes INL, the state of Idaho, Idaho State University, Boise State University, the University of Idaho and UW. INL teams participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lab-Corps program, designed to guide innovation at national laboratories into the world of commerce and industry.

Belmont’s team was part of a seven-week entrepreneurial boot camp, or “cohort,” facilitated by the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. It involved in-person sessions and weekly webinars to help the teams learn how to evaluate the market potential of their technologies and bring a new level of entrepreneurial awareness back to their research and colleagues.

Belmont’s CAES contingent received the highest number of customer interviews in the pilot program. Along with INL research lead Jaya Tumuluru and industry mentor Art Baker of INL, Belmont served as the entrepreneurial lead. The team worked on a high-moisture pelleting process for raw biomass material, which could reduce energy and production costs of pellets for biomass power and biofuel production.

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