Fellow 2007-08

Dimitrios C Kyritsis

Mechanical Science and Engineering


Liquid hydrocarbons exhibit an exceptionally high power density that has been used with success in medium- and large-scale devices. A quantity of no more than 5-6 gallons of gasoline can power a decent-sized vehicle from Champaign to Chicago, and a building the size of the Abbot power plant is sufficient for the production of more than one-third of the total energy consumed by the Urbana-Champaign campus.

It would be beneficial to also apply the power density of liquid hydrocarbons to small-scale devices. Combustion-based “batteries,” for example, could be 100 times smaller for an equivalent lifetime of use or supply power 100 times longer at the same size. Two challenges currently prevent such applications. First, the large surface-to-volume ratios of small-scale burners would make them vulnerable to excessive power losses, and therefore inefficient. Second, typical hydrocarbon flames would have annoying and potentially lethal emissions that would make them inappropriate for small-scale, especially indoor, power generation.

During his Center appointment, Professor Kyritsis will address this area through investigating fundamental physical processes that can provide compact, clean, and efficient power sources based on microcombustion. His project will focus on catalytic processes to overcome (a) the difficulty of atomizing liquid fuel into fine droplets and (b) the tendency of gaseous flames to extinguish when confined in small spaces. The research approach will be experimental, using laser diagnostics and gas-analytical techniques with which his research group has already developed expertise. The molecular structure of ethanol and other renewable bio-fuels appears to make them very appropriate for microcombustion technologies, and these fuels will receive particular attention.

Expected results will outline a novel regime of reactive fluid flow, where many of the assumptions that have been widely accepted for large-scale power generation will not apply and will have to be replaced with new science.