Quick links:

Micro-scale combustion and power generation

Corona discharge ignition of combustible gases

Microbial fuel cells, dynamics of motile bacteria and biofilms

Premixed turbulent combustion: mechanisms, burning rates, extinction

Front propagation in Hele-Shaw cells

Throttleless Premixed-Charge Engines

Premixed Gas Flames and "Flame Balls" at Microgravity

Flame Spread Over Solid Fuel beds

Edge-flames and flame instabilities in counterflows

Frontal polymerization

Radiatively-driven flows and instabilities in gases

Narrative description:

My research is focused mostly on combustion problems but also more generally what I call “chemically reacting flows” such as autocatalytic chemical reactions, frontal polymerization and even studies of bacterial growth and electrical power production. 

Dr. Charles Westbrook of Lawrence Livermore National Labs describes combustion problems as having two axes, one labeled “chemistry” and the other labeled “fluid mechanics” (or more generally, “transport phenomena.”)  Charlie says that he works close to the “chemistry” axis.  Others work closer to the “transport” axis.  I try to stay close to a 45 degree line on this plot where the interactions of chemical reactions and transport are most prevalent. 

Much of my work is fairly fundamental in character, though several including corona discharge ignition for internal combustion engines, micropower generation and micropropulsion and throttleless premixed-charge engines have near-term practical implications as well.

The underlying theme common to almost all of this work a contrarian approach or as Willie Keeler said:  “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.”  Keeler was a baseball player in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with remarkable hitting statistics, which he attributed to that simple motto.  I try to do the same – look for problems that other groups aren’t working on but have the potential for “extra base hits,” that is, research that others will find surprising, counter-intuitive, perhaps controversial or provocative but hopefully useful.  (After all, the person who wins in this business is not the one with the most papers or most funding but the one whose work is referenced the most by others.)

Another common theme in this work is the “anti kitchen sink” approach.  Rather than using a “kitchen sink” approach of trying to measure every possible property (in experiments) or model every possible process in detail (in numerical simulations), I try to focus only on the minimum, simplest, quickest and cheapest set of measurements or modeled processes required to gain insight into the phenomenon of interest.  You won’t find a jungle of lasers or supercomputers in my labs.

Feel free to contact me with questions or suggestions about any of this work.  Good suggestions are much appreciated.  Bad ones will be posted on my website, with attribution, along with rude comments.