Shi Recognized as Young Investigator by Air Force Office of Scientific Research

Jan. 11, 2023 - The  Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) has awarded Xian Shi, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, a 2023 Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) grant. He is one of 58 scientists and engineers in the country to earn the honor this year and will receive $450,000 over three years for his research exploring the fundamental dynamics of the detonation phenomenon and detonation-based propulsion concepts.

According to Shi, while the detonation phenomenon has been studied in the context of detonation cellular structures in laboratory environment, the dynamics observed in practical engines are often dramatically different as influenced by specific operating conditions and geometries. Shi’s project will explore a new mechanistic description of multidimensional detonation propagation centered around transverse wave dynamics, with the goal of offering a unifying theory for detonation propagation of different structures and modalities. The results will help enable the development of future detonation-based propulsion engines for aircraft and rockets. 

“Detonation engines currently suffer from various instabilities and fluctuations that are difficult to predict and optimize given our current understanding,” said Shi. “In contrast to the traditional detonation cell concept, we propose that transverse waves, or the associated triple-shock structures, are the fundamental elements that enable detonation propagation in multidimensional geometries. We aim to unravel the underlying physics of transverse waves and manipulate its dynamics to enable stable, robust detonation processes. We appreciate the support of AFOSR’s energy, combustion and nonequilibrium thermodynamics program for our exploration.”

Shi plans to carry out a tightly-integrated experimental-computational research program to fully develop the new theoretical framework.

The AFOSR received more than 175 proposals this year for YIP funding. The objective of the program is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and related challenges in science and engineering.

– Lori Brandt