The University of Missouri-Rolla, a leader in the study of aircraft and aerospace emissions and their effect on the environment, has received a $3.15 million federal appropriation to further critical research in this area.
The $3.15 million will establish the Center of Excellence for Aerospace Propulsion Particulate Emissions Reduction at UMR. The center will coordinate research conducted by UMR and a consortium of private and public interests that includes Aerodyne Inc. of Billerica, Mass.; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio; and the U.S. Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn.
The consortium will focus on the development of innovative ways to characterize the "particulate emissions" — soot or smoke particles — from aircraft and rocket exhaust, gather data from various aircraft and rockets, and interpret that data.
The effort is led by Dr. Phil Whitefield, an associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Don Hagen, a professor of physics, both researchers at UMR’s Cloud and Aerosol Sciences Laboratory. For the past decade, the two researchers have been studying aerosols produced by aerospace activities, such as aircraft operations and rocket launchings. Their work includes studies for NASA, which served as a target agency for the current project. "We went forward as a group of concerned citizens and very qualified scientists and engineers with a common interest," says Whitefield.
According to Hagen, this research will produce results on a variety of levels — from what goes on inside the engines to produce emissions; to the impact the emissions have on the atmosphere, air quality and human beings; to how engine designs can be made more environmentally friendly. The center for excellence is a "collaborative effort to upgrade the instrumentation and software and computer models to attack these emissions problems in a better, more organized way than we had done in the past," Hagen says.
Aerospace emissions have a huge environmental and economic impact. "We really compete with the European Economic Community in terms of market share in new aircraft production. If they start requiring environmentally compatible aircraft and the United States aerospace industry does not respond, the U.S. risks losing its major market share in the competitive aerospace economy of the 21st century," says Whitefield.
The white lines aircraft leave in the sky, called "contrails," are a serious problem for the military as well. "We won’t be able to get rid of them, but we will be able to reduce their visibility and detectability," Whitefield adds. Aerospace emissions research will continue to play a key role in the stability of our economy, our environment and our health for years into the future. UMR is planning to stay on top of this research and already has plans to pursue federal appropriations again next year. In addition, NASA will monitor activities at the center with possibilities of making it a permanent program on the NASA budget.