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Space Institute Moves Into New Phase in Developing MHD-Powered Generator

The University of Tennessee Space Institute’s work on a light-weight magnetohydrodynamics-powered generator to produce super power for futuristic flights has entered a new phase with testing of the upgraded test facility.

“We are still analyzing data from our test in November,” said Trevor Moeller, of Manchester, leader of UTSI’s work on the Hypersonic Vehicle Electric Power System (HVEPS). “On the surface everything looks good.”

The Institute is partnering with General Atomics in responding to the U.S. Air Force’s plan to develop multi-megawatt electrical power systems for hypersonic vehicle applications. These range from magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) compression and plasma combustion control of the hypersonic scramjet engines to directed energy applications.

The challenge is to develop a generator light enough to fly on future aircraft and other aerospace vehicles. Uses for the super power-producers include special military applications such as the capability of a non-nuclear rapid strike option against foreign terrorist bases or underground command and control targets.

“We are working under 2004 Fiscal Year funding of $953,480,” Moeller said, “but we have received contract materials for $751,299 in FY05 funding.”

UTSI’s task has been to partner on a generator and superconducting magnet design and with this year’s funding to finish building and testing it.

“We have just completed an upgrade to the combustion-driven test facility to allow for increased flow rates,” Moeller said, “and we are starting tests with jet fuel slurries to assess the practicality of their use in a combustion-driven MHD generator system.”

Moeller, research professor who holds two graduate degrees from UTSI, said characterization of the flow uniformity and temperature is one test objective.

Also, the three-dimensional MHD computational fluid dynamics code developed earlier is “being further developed to enable its use in critical conductivity measurements and to analyze experimental results from future MHD generator system tests.”

Improvements included a new oxygen manifold, exhaust nozzle, an improved data system, and running a different fuel mixture. These additions pave the way for a new phase in the experiments, Jim Goodman, director of research labs, said.