Particle physics research

UCF receives $ 1.5 million DoD grant for hypersonic research


As the United States joins rival nations like China and Russia to develop hypersonic propulsion technology, the Defense Department is drawing on research institutes around the world to lend a hand.


What would you like to know

  • UCF received $ 1.5 million from DoD for research into hypersonic propulsion
  • Investing in research will help the United States catch up with countries like China and Russia
  • In addition to military applications, hypersonic travel can also aid commercial travel and improve ease of access to space.

The DoD awarded approximately $ 25.5 million over three years to 18 research projects through the University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics (UCAH). The University of Central Florida was among those chosen for the research and received a grant of $ 1.5 million.

Hypersonic means faster than Mach 5 or five times the speed of sound.

Dr Kareem Ahmed, associate professor in the mechanical engineering department at UCF and an expert in the field of hypersonic propulsion, said the call for proposals was launched about a year ago.

It submitted a white paper and proposal around September 2020, then a full proposal in February 2021. The DoD submitted its grant offer in September.

Ahmed and his two research partners, Ph.D. Students Daniel Rosato and Mason Thornton are working on the development of “high flammability, high energy density solid fuels for ramjets and scramjets, both of which are engines designed for hypersonic propulsion ”.

He told Spectrum News 13 that they started working in this area before the opportunity to secure DoD funding arose.

“We have a few key formulations that we conceptualized in the proposal phase, but now we’re fine-tuning to the point where we’re going to start building and testing, at least quickly reviewing some of them and then moving on to the next steps. engine testing, ”Ahmed said.

His research also received a $ 500,000 boost from UCF’s Jump Start fund as part of the university’s 2021-2022 program. Strategic investment program.

The research is carried out inside the High Enthalpy Hypersonic Reaction or the HyperREACT facility at UCF. This area allows them to use a combination of high-speed cameras and high-resolution laser diagnostics to collect data while running a series of tests.

“The goal is for us to be able to achieve high hypersonic conditions for the propulsion systems, such as simulating flight conditions up to Mach 17,” Ahmed said. “So you push air into the engine like it’s flying at hypersonic speeds, and then you explore things in the downstream optical test section.”

Due to the intensity of the test in addition to the noise, Ahmed and the team wear noise-canceling headphones and go to a separate room during the tests where they can also observe the incoming data.

Regardless of this recent grant to develop a fuel for hypersonic propulsion, Ahmed and the team published an article in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA which proposed a propulsion system that would allow flight speeds between Mach 6 and Mach 17.

Introduced into a commercial market, it could allow high-speed trips like getting from New York to Los Angeles in less than 30 minutes.

Published in May 2021, the article described the system as “an experimental setup and flow conditions that generate stabilized oblique detonation, a phenomenon that has the potential to revolutionize the high-speed propulsion of the future.”

Ongoing research for both of these initiatives is critical because of the speed with which countries like China and Russia are advancing with this technology.

Earlier this year, China tested a hypersonic weapon system that US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called “very worrying.” Chinese media, South China Morning Post, also reported in May that a Chinese physicist was developing a wind tunnel capable of simulating flights at Mach 30.

Russia also announced that it had successfully tested a hypersonic missile in late November.

UCF researchers like Rosado said these are examples of why the United States needs to invest in work like theirs.

“I won’t say that we are catching up, but we are not leaving at the moment either, which is why we need to invest more in research, because if we want to be a leader, we don’t want to have this downside of being behind in this technology, so we need the money to do the research, ”Rosado said.