Uncovering Complex Reaction Mechanisms in Combustion

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Responsible use of natural resources for energy production in the transportation sector is driven by the recognized imperative for sustainability, which is the driver for efforts on improving fuel economy standards and emissions reduction. At current rates, over 70% of annual petroleum consumption in the United States is diverted to the transportation sector, which derives more than 95% of its energy requirements from liquid fuels. Because of the high energy density of liquid fuels, and other reasons, the transportation sector is projected to remain reliant on petroleum-based hydrocarbons for decades to come.

However, the combined approach of developing advanced combustion strategies and liquid biofuels intends to augment this scenario by providing more-efficient, cleaner burning combustion systems and by providing sustainable sources of liquid fuels that are able to be produced from a growing number of biomass conversion technologies. One critical aspect to the success of these concurrently developing areas is the availability of high-fidelity predictive modeling and simulation tools that can enable co-optimization of different combustion strategies and fuels. Chemical kinetics models are one piece of the modeling puzzle and require basic science input on questions such as how molecular structure impacts ignition chemistry and other combustion phenomena, particularly in blends of hydrocarbons and biofuels.

Research Themes

Combustion Chemistry

Combustion Chemistry

Combustion chemistry, along with fluid dynamics and multi-phase physics, plays an integral role in the production of energy for transportation, and is governed by a complex network of interconnected reaction mechanisms. Understanding the intricacies of such mechanisms, which span thousands of distinct chemical species and elementary reactions, enables the development of computational models that are employed in the design and simulation of next-generation combustion strategies focused on higher efficiency and reduced emissions.

Biofuels

Biofuels

Biofuels are an alternative energy source purposed for mitigating the consumption of petroleum-based fuels, namely gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel, as well as augmenting the efficiency of internal combustion engines and contributing to a lower carbon-intensive transportation sector. Most biofuels are functionalized hydrocarbons such as ethanol (H3CCH2OH) and butanone (H3CC(=O)CH2CH3), although alkanes, aromatics, and other hydrocarbons produced from biomass are not, e.g. farnesane (2,6,10-trimethyldodecane). Under certain combustion conditions, the presence of functional groups can impact reaction pathways that govern autoignition, which is sustained by chain-branching reactions, and pollutant formation.

Atmospheric Chemistry

Atmospheric Chemistry

In addition to CO, NOx, CO2, and H2O, byproducts of combustion include volatile organic compounds (VOC), which are implicated in health and climate-related issues. Globally, the transportation sector, which is driven principally by combustion, is responsible for 128 Tg per year of VOC emissions – approximately 10% compared to biogenic sources, which largely produce isoprene, monoterpenes, and sesquiterpenes. Because of the differences in molecular structure between functionalized biofuels and conventional, petroleum-derived hydrocarbons, the combustion of biofuels can alter the types of VOC emitted from the transportation sector, and understanding the ensuing impact on atmospheric chemistry is an important area in the atmospheric sciences.

Education

  • Ph.D. 2012

    Ph.D., Interdisciplinary Engineering

    Texas A&M University

  • MSME 2009

    Master of Science, Mechanical Engineering

    Texas A&M University

  • BSME 2006

    Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering

    University of Central Florida

Positions and Appointments

Awards

  • 2015
    Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award