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Darren Green,
NSF Graduate Fellow

NSF GK-12 Project: Pennsylvania State University
Graduate Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Technology (GREATT)
URL: http://csats.psu.edu/GREATT/

Thesis Title: Development of a Solid Piston Micro Engine
College/University: Pennsylvania State University

Research Advisor: Domenic Santavicca, Kendra Sharp

Degree Sought

University Department and/or Lab
Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering with a focus on thermal and fluid sciences

Research Focus
The overall goal of the project is to develop a novel micro-size device that employs a hydrocarbon fuel to produce an electrical output.

Description of Research
The result of my research will be to develop a novel micro-size device that employs a hydrocarbon fuel to produce an electrical output. The intended purpose for such a device would be to replace traditional chemical batteries with a smaller, lighter, and rapidly rechargeable power source. The current design idea utilizes the heat release from periodic catalytic reactions of hydrogen and air to mechanically deform a piezoelectric material. Upon deformation, the piezoelectric material will output an electric charge. The two main advantages of the design are that it contains no working or moving parts and produces no combustion flame. This eliminates flame quenching and fabrication challenges, which are common problems among micro-scale power devices.

To date, work has been done to produce and characterize the periodic catalytic combustion required for the micro-engine. Work is now being done to develop a numerical model that simulates the micro-combustor. This will help improve understanding of the micro-combustorís dependence on different experimental parameters as well as provide a reliable model for developing the next generation design. Upon verification of the modelís accuracy, a model will be developed to simulate and optimize an improved micro-engine design prior to fabrication for experimental work.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience
In order to incorporate a portion of my research into the GK-12 project, I have created a combustion activity that involves preliminary demonstrations to show how combustion produces light sound and heat. Also demonstrated is how temperature affects reaction rates. During the demonstration process, I connect the combustion reactions they witnessed with the work I do on micro-engines. This includes a short discussion on catalytic reactions and how they can help with combustion.

Next, the students do a hands-on activity to better understand what is going on in combustion. They are given a candle and investigate what is the burning fuel and what happens when oxygen is removed. They also learn about emissions and observe soot forming on glass jars. Afterwards, we have a discussion about burning different fuels, such as hydrogen, ethanol, gasoline, and candle wax. The students learn the advantages and disadvantages of each fuel as well as appropriate applications for each. In this discussion I am able to explain how and why my research utilizes hydrogen.

Profile date: September 2007
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