University of Texas at Arlington doctoral students Daniel Palmquist and Vijay Gopal, along with Davide Vigano, a postdoctoral researcher, will study, collaborate and conduct experiments with the Princeton University Plasma Physics Laboratory group, thanks to a Department of Energy grant.
The three are part of Luca Maddalena’s research team at UT Arlington’s Aerodynamics Research Center (ARC). Maddalena is the ARC director and a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
The $108,940 grant will enable the researchers to gain the technical know-how to perform state-of-the-art femtosecond laser diagnostics in plasma flows. Lasers and optical receivers offer non-intrusive measurements of gas properties by probing a targeted region of gas. Femtosecond (fs) lasers produce a very short laser pulse in the order of one-million-billionth of a second.
This ultra-short laser pulse and the associated quantum mechanical effects on the fluid atoms and molecules offer a unique platform to measure the gas properties in a plasma flow environment, such as their composition and velocity.
“In the research program, ARC members will be exposed to this advanced technique, specifically to measure the number of atoms of oxygen and nitrogen per unit volume using femtosecond laser diagnostics,” Maddalena said.
The wind tunnel, designed at the ARC by Maddalena and his team, opened in June 2019. It is jointly funded by Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The application of these measurements in the arc-heated wind tunnel will help researchers better understand the behavior of heat shields for use in novel hypersonic vehicles and for space exploration applications like planetary entry and re-entry of planetary probes.
“The recent Department of Energy funding will play an important role to bring back fs-laser diagnostics expertise from Princeton to UT Arlington to successfully characterize the arc-heated wind tunnel at the ARC,” Maddalena said.