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Release: Immediate

UI engineering project to fly aboard Nov. 19 shuttle mission

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- When the USMP-4 Mission of the Columbia Space Shuttle lifts off Nov. 19, the University of Iowa College of Engineering will be on board in the form of a shuttle "Glovebox" investigation to study ways to make jet engines cleaner and more reliable.

L.D. Chen, professor and chair of the department of mechanical engineering, is the principal investigator of a four-year, $415,000 project funded by NASA's Microgravity Science Division to study the stability and characteristics of jet engine flames. Chen, who will use space as a laboratory to aid his investigation, plans to spend one week of the mission, including launch day, at the mission control center at Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. Also, the UI will be represented at the Cape Canaveral shuttle launch site by David J. Skorton, UI vice president for research.

The investigation, called ELF (for Enclosed Laminar Flames), is a study of jet engine stability phenomena that occur regularly in a combustion engine, furnace or gas-fired fireplace operated in a gravity environment. Chen, who has conducted project simulation experiments and investigator training sessions at Marshall Space Flight Center with NASA astronaut/mission specialists Dr. Kalpana Chawla and Dr. Takao Doi, said that jet engine flame out occurs when there is an abrupt change in engine conditions. He added that flame out and engine emission of nitrogen oxides and soot can best be studied in the near-weightless environment of space before trying to alleviate the problems in a gravity environment.

Chen's co-investigators on the project are Dennis P. Stocker and John E. Brooker, both research scientists at NASA-Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio. The ELF investigation is being supported by engineering expertise and experimental hardware developed by NASA.