LSU ME Professor Menon Receives NSF CAREER Award

February 7, 2023

Shyam Menon inspecting machineBATON ROUGE, LA – LSU Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Shyam Menon was recently awarded a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for his work on understanding how solid particles in gas flows interact with material surfaces. A better understanding of this interaction could impact safety and standards for components commonly used in aerospace and power generation.

The NSF CAREER Award is the organization’s most prestigious award offered in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Menon’s total award is more than $530,000.

“It’s hard to fix a problem unless we understand the key factors which influence the severity with which the problem impacts an engineering system,” Menon said. “The results from [our] studies can have a significant impact on choices made by engineers regarding design of components and the materials with which they are constructed. 

“Ultimately, this will feed into improved operational safety and reduced maintenance requirements for components widely used in aerospace and power generation. Safer travel; whether it’s on an airplane, helicopter, or spacecraft; and cheaper, sustainable flights with longer lasting aircraft/spacecraft components is something we can all appreciate.”

The first goal of Menon’s project is to establish a connection between gas phase-influenced particle conditions and collision outcomes when the particles impact a solid surface. In other words, when solid particles advance in a flowing gas, the velocity and temperature of the particles are strongly influenced by the conditions of the gas phase. Subsequently, when the particles impact a solid surface, the same two parameters—velocity and temperature—have a driving influence on the interaction process and resulting outcomes, such as whether the particle erodes material off of the surface, if it deposits on the surface and adheres to it, or if the particle shatters and breaks into smaller pieces. 

“These couplings need to be better understood if we are to have a comprehensive explanation for what happens when a particulate-laden flow impinges on a solid surface, which happens a lot in engineering applications like aircraft, gas turbine engines, helicopter rotors, wind turbines, and spacecraft traveling through dusty atmospheres,” Menon said.

Close up of machineThe second goal of the project is to use the established connection from goal one to develop a control scheme to mitigate surface damage utilizing fluidic injection in the boundary layer. 

“In terms of reducing particle impact on the surface, we can think of the boundary layer as a cushion which could slow down, stop, and/or redirect the impinging particle, thereby mitigating its impact,” Menon said. “We hope to study approaches involving injection of a high molecular weight gas like Xenon to see whether the boundary layer can provide the required cushioning effect to protect the surface from particle impact.”

The last portion of the project involves expanding aerospace education through the implementation of hands-on rocketry and aerodynamics courses for high school and undergraduate students, as well as a traveling exhibit on shockwave propagation aimed at the general public. To carry this out, Menon will be joined by other faculty in the College of Engineering; Elkhan Akhundov, assistant school principal of Kenilworth Science and Technology Academy; and the Louisiana Space Consortium, or LaSPACE.

“I plan to develop the summer mini-course and add more propulsion-relevant activities,” Menon said. “Middle school student mentees from Kenilworth Science and Technology will get to operate our research setups like a shock tube and collect data for their science fair presentations. Finally, in collaboration with LaSPACE, we will put together hands-on exhibits for shock wave propagation that can be deployed on its MARS (Mobile Astronomy Resource System) Truck exhibit, which travels to state fairs and schools across the state.”

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Contact: Joshua Duplechain
Director of Communications