Hypersonics

The research interests of the UNSW Canberra Hypersonics and High-Speed Flows group range from improving our understanding of the fundamental physical and chemical processes in the flows associated with high-speed aircraft and planetary entry to the development and testing of the technologies required to achieve practical hypersonic flight. This research will help us to understand and control the extreme conditions associated with high-speed flight.  The technologies we have developed in our investigations of hypersonic flows have had applications in many other areas, including biomedical sensing and modelling, air speed measurements for commercial aircraft and the measurement and simulation of component performance in gas turbines.

We investigate these processes using a combination of experimental, analytical and computational expertise. Experimentally, we combine our hypersonic free-piston shock tunnel and supersonic wind tunnel facilities with laser-based flow diagnostics capable of measuring gas temperatures, velocities and species concentrations, and highly sensitive, high-speed flow visualisation.  Computationally, we work on both Navier Stokes and direct simulation Monte Carlo modelling of rarefied and continuum hypersonic flow.

In addition to our laboratory facilities, we are actively involved in putting advanced instrumentation on hypersonic flight vehicles, including diode laser absorption spectroscopy systems, temperature-sensitive paints, and sophisticated electronic sensing systems for the measurement of heat flux. We have collaborated on the HyShot, HyCAUSE, HIFiRE, SCRAMSPACE and HEXAFLY-International hypersonic test-flight programs.

Our group currently consists of 5 academics, three postdoctoral fellows, a research engineer and 15 graduate students as well as dedicated technical staff.  We currently receive funding from the Australian Research Council, Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), the United States Air Force and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

 

Our current research programs include:

Hypersonic Separated Flow in the Continuum to Rarefied Regimes.  This research is funded by the Australian Research Council, and involves validation of state-of-the-art computational simulations with advanced laser-based flow measurements.  For the transitional flow regime between rarefied and continuum flow, it is difficult to predict the flow parameters, even for the most advanced computational simulations. This project involves close collaboration with the University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign and the US Air Force.

Hypersonic Free-Flight Testing in Ground Based Facilities: Our group is continuing to develop experimental methods to fly scaled and instrumented models of hypersonic vehicles in or hypersonic wind tunnels. These free-flight experiments enable us to directly and simultaneously measure aerodynamic coefficients, surrounding flow fields, surface pressure distributions and the dynamics of vehicle separation. This work is funded by DST Group in support of the HIFiRE program.

Supersonic Forced Ignition Systems: Our group has performed the first demonstration of laser spark ignition in a supersonic combustion ramjet engine, and we are continuing this work in collaboration with the US Air Force and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign to investigate the effectiveness of laser spark ignition and nanosecond-duration plasma ignition for enhancing ignition in hypersonic flows.  We are now leading the experimental component of a large CRC-P funded project to investigate the ignition of hydrocarbon fuels in scramjets.

Fluid Thermal Structural Interactions:  Very hot, high-speed flows can cause significant deformation and flexure in the structure of the vehicle, which in turn interacts with the flow in a strongly coupled way.  We are developing new experimental and computational tools to understand these complex interactions.  This work is funded by the US Air Force and is being performed in collaboration with the University of Southern Queensland and the University of Queensland.

Shock Wave Focusing: We are deploying advanced visualisation and time-resolved measurement techniques to understand the highly nonlinear process of focusing shock waves.

In-Flight Measurements on Hypersonic Vehicles: Our group develops sensors and techniques to perform in-flight measurements on hypersonic vehicles. We developed the successful diode laser absorption spectroscopy-based intake flow sensor for the SCRAMSPACE project. We have measured heating distributions on a number of the flight vehicles in the HIFiRE program. We are currently developing instrumentation that is capable of mapping heating and fluid-thermal-structural interactions on-board the European led HEXAFLY-International flight test.

Diagnostic Technique Development: Our group has developed several new flow diagnostic techniques tailored to the challenges associated with hypersonic flows, including very accurate velocity measurement techniques, plasma temperature and species concentration measurements with nanosecond time resolution and density-sensitive flow visualisation techniques that are much more sensitive than standard techniques.  Our diagnostic development work is being developed in collaboration with Princeton University, the University of Texas at Austin and the George Washington University.

 

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