The Center of Excellence for Aerospace Particulate Research at the University of Missouri-Rolla, a leader in the study of aerospace emissions and their effect on the environment, has received a $1.185 million grant from NASA and a $259,000 grant from the California Air Resources Board to further its research in this area.
In May, the center received a $159,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. The grants bring the total appropriations to more than $4.7 million since the center’s establishment in 2003.
The effort is led by Dr. Phil Whitefield, professor of chemistry, and Dr. Don Hagen, professor of physics, working closely with Dr. Darryl Alofs, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. For more than a decade, the researchers have been studying particulate emissions produced by aerospace activities, such as aircraft operations and rocket launches. Their work with others has led to the development of an internationally accepted approach to characterize the nature of particulate matter, or soot, in jet engine and rocket exhaust.
Currently, the researchers are in the process of applying that approach to gather essential data in the upper atmosphere where the aircraft cruise, but also to examine the environmental impact of airport expansion on local air quality.
Estimates suggest the number of airline passengers may double by 2010, says Whitefield, and to meet that anticipated increase in demand, U.S. airports will have to expand.
“As airports expand and people become more concerned about particulate matter (PM) emissions, it becomes clear that there is a unique source of PM emissions in the gas turbine engines that power our commercial aircraft,” says Whitefield.
“Typically our airports were built outside cities, but in many cases they are now surrounded by the cities as they have grown, so airport expansions have potentially serious economic and environmental impacts,” he says. “The role of aircraft emissions is one they’re very concerned about because we don’t yet fully understand them. Our research at the Center of Excellence is making great strides to address this issue.”
Beginning Monday, Aug. 22, the researchers will spend a week conducting a test as part of Project JETS APEX II at Oakland International Airport in Oakland, Calif. The test will focus on the emissions of a General Electric CFM-56-2C1 engine. In this test the UMR researchers will work with scientists and engineers from the California Air Resources Board, NASA, FAA, EPA, University of California Riverside, University of Central Florida, General Electric, Boeing and the Aerodyne Corp.
Each night, Whitefield and the other researchers will test aircraft in a special enclosure where they can run the aircraft engine through its entire flight protocol with probe stands placed directly behind the engine, gathering data on the exhaust as it comes out of the aircraft. They will be able to test both engines at once on the same aircraft.
Once the engine testing is complete, the researchers will monitor aircraft emissions during routine departures, as the exhaust plumes blow toward their instruments downwind of the runway. This will allow the researchers to examine the emissions again once the environment has a chance to modify them, Whitefield explains. They will also study differences in emissions between times of low departure frequency and those of high departure frequency.
The center’s mobile laboratory houses instrumentation that allows the researchers to measure 10 to 12 details about particulate matter simultaneously at very high speed. During the testing, it will sit at the wing tip and along the side of the runway to gather emissions data.
In October, Whitefield plans to transport the center’s mobile laboratory to Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Ohio for a similar round of testing.
“In Oakland we perform these tests at sea level in a maritime environment. In Ohio, we’ll test in the Central Plains in early fall,” Whitefield says. “It will be colder, there won’t be such a dramatic shift in temperature during the test period and the relative humidity will be different. We’re using Mother Nature to provide us with control over parameters that would be very difficult for us to control.”
In addition to its commercial aircraft studies, the center also works with the Department of Defense to help reduce military aircraft emissions to allow them to operate their aircraft at bases in the United States and stay within the rules of the Clean Air Act.
The UMR Center of Excellence for Aerospace Particulate Research coordinates research conducted by UMR and a consortium of private and public interests that include universities like Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California and the University of Central Florida; federal agencies like NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense and Transport Canada; engine and airframe manufacturers General Electric, Pratt and Whitney, Rolls Royce and Boeing; and private firms like Aerodyne, Inc. and Lilenfeld Associates.
In addition to Whitefield, Hagen and Alofs, Dr. Gary Gadbury, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, assists the team in the statistical interpretation of its data. The center also houses several staff members as well as graduate and undergraduate student researchers.