Two UHart Mechanical Engineering Professors Working at NASA to Reduce Airplane Noise and Renew Interest in Commercial Supersonic Flight
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Two UHart Mechanical Engineering Professors Working at NASA to Reduce Airplane Noise and Renew Interest in Commercial Supersonic Flight

Two CETA mechanical engineering professors, Ivana Milanovic and Paul Slaboch, are researching how to decrease noise levels in airplane engines to potentially renew interest in commercial supersonic transportation. Thanks to having been awarded prestigious NASA fellowships, both professors are at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio this summer. Professor Milanovic is working with the Inlets and Nozzles branch as well as the Acoustics branch, while Professor Slaboch is focused on the Acoustics branch where, among other projects, he is validating computational models of engine noise predictions.

“The idea of commercial supersonic transportation has been gaining momentum over the last few years as recent advancements in technology have made this long held dream a possibility again,” says Professor Slaboch. British Airways and Air France are the only airlines to have owned and operated the ultra-fast Concorde airplane, developed in the late 1960s by French Aerospace manufacturer Aerospatiale and British Aircraft Corporation, and capable of flying from London to New York in just 3 hours and 30 minutes, less than half the time it takes a 747 jumbo jet. The Concorde was retired in 2003, partially because of increasing maintenance costs.

Creating a new commercial supersonic aircraft will require further leaps in science and technology and NASA believes it is at the forefront of this effort. Professor Milanovic, who has been experimentally investigating supersonic delta wing vortices since the 1990’s, says she is confident her research will contribute to "a better understanding of the acoustic resonance modes and standing waves, eventually leading to methods for suppression or avoidance of certain tones in aircraft engines." Accurate estimation of noise sources and transmission paths generated by turbofan engines is important for aircraft noise certification.

The professors' work at NASA also benefits students in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture. Professor Slaboch is learning new computational tools that he will back to campus and integrate into his teaching and research. In his Compressible Flow course, students will complete a design project using the supersonic inlets that NASA is currently developing. Students in his Fluid Mechanics course will see how what they are learning in class applies directly to the latest supersonic technology. He also plans to collaborate with colleagues at NASA to continue the propulsion research which will give graduate students an opportunity to be at the forefront of NASA’s new technology. 

Thanks to Professor Milanovic’s NASA-related research (this is her sixth time winning a NASA faculty fellowship), she has been able to embed simulations and application building into two junior-level courses. In addition, a student team completed building a Turbomachinery Research Laboratory in support of fundamental and applied research. “We expect to advance the knowledge of turbomachinery flows while promoting training and learning at CETA, establishing a strong foundation for academic development and in-house educational opportunities,” she says.