Achieving a cleaner future for the transportation sector

Mechanical Engineering

By Jeremy Henderson

Mitigating the environmental impact of meeting the world’s rapidly increasing transportation energy demands is a problem.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) thinks Nick Tsolas may have a solution.

The assistant professor of mechanical engineering recently received a $518,000 National Science Foundation CAREER Award to investigate low-temperature plasma assisted combustion of oxygenated fuels as a potential alternative to achieving a cleaner and sustainable future for the transportation sector.

“The overall objective of this project is to examine how we can leverage unique chemical and physical properties of low-temperature plasmas (LTP) to improve the energy extraction and efficiency of renewable fuels with potentially less environmental harm,” Tsolas said.

“Experimentally, we have developed two unique experiments to study various aspects of this phenomena, including a plasma-coupled flow reactor to study fundamental plasma-chemical interactions, and a plasma-coupled rapid compression machine,” he added.

Although the application of the project was meant to address energy issues in the transportation sector, Tsolas expects that fundamental outcomes from his research can also be adopted to support other LTP-based applications, such as micro-propulsion for CubeSats, pollution remediation and valorizing carbon dioxide to manufacture value-added fuels and electro-fuels.