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Better, Cheaper Fuel

Better, Cheaper Fuel

In the future, jet engines will be safer, more efficient and emit fewer pollutants as advanced fuels are designed to cool hot engine components without deposit build up that can clog aircraft fuel systems. That’s the goal of the new von Ohain Fuels and Combustion Center in the School of Engineering at the University of Dayton, which will be one of the largest academic institutions working with the United States Air Force in this research field.

Currently, only 40 percent of an engine’s fuel is used for propelling the aircraft forward. As a result of the von Ohain center, UD researchers hope to develop versatile fuel and combustion technologies for the military in the next few years, and commercial aircraft after that, which will achieve higher engine efficiencies, significantly lowering fuel costs. This would mark one of the first major improvements in conventional jet fuel in more than 40 years.

The center, which will consolidate UD research performed both on and off-campus at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is named for Hans von Ohain, co-inventor of the jet engine in 1939 in Germany. After retiring as chief scientist of the Aerospace Research Laboratories and the Air Force Aero Propulsion Laboratory at WPAFB in 1979, von Ohain joined UD as a professor of mechanical engineering and a part-time senior research engineer. He died in 1998.

“This year is dedicated to the national celebration of the centennial of powered flight," said Daniel J. Curran, president of the University of Dayton. "The establishment of the von Ohain center signals the university's strong commitment to engineering education, scholarly research and advancements in the area of fuel and combustion science in a city known as the ‘the birthplace of aviation.’”

Dilip Ballal, Hans von Ohain distinguished professor in the School of Engineering, founded the fuels and combustion group in the University of Dayton Research Institute in 1983. He has been appointed as director of the new center. “Our strength is in our outstanding group of world-class researchers and teachers. Over the past 20 years, our fuels and combustion group has been awarded nearly $40 million in contracts with the Air Force," said Ballal. "Dr. von Ohain would be proud because he experienced the kind of fuels and combustion problems our research team will be trying to solve in the jet engines of tomorrow."

According to Blake Cherrington, dean of the School of Engineering, the fuels and combustion group has grown almost tenfold in both research volume and size in the last two decades. "The von Ohain Fuels and Combustion Center will provide a gateway to engineering education," Cherrington said. "The center will give UD instant international visibility, recognition and a distinct identity, which will help attract students, scholars and research funding to the School of Engineering.”

The von Ohain Fuels and Combustion Center will be housed in the Kettering Laboratories on the University of Dayton campus and will be designed to promote collaboration between disciplines like science and engineering. While it's a win-win situation for students, faculty and staff, the big payoff will be for the consumers.

“Anytime you can reduce pollution in air transportation, you can improve the environment,” said Gordon Sargent, vice president for graduate studies and research. "The development of a new combustion process will increase fuel efficiency, so this country won't need to be as dependent on foreign oil."

Added Curran: "Engineering and sciences have always played very important roles in building the reputation of this institution over the years. It’s our history and it’s our future.”

January 2003

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