Since 1948, Purdue researchers have set the standard for combustion and propulsion experiments.  Work at Zucrow Labs led to the development of the original Space Shuttle Main Engines. Today, new technologies allow propellants, combustors, and rocket engines to be conceived, constructed, and tested with unprecedented accuracy.  With the blossoming private space industry, Purdue combustion engineers are in high demand.

And it’s not just space. Purdue researchers also focus on turbines, airplane and automotive engines, and clean-burning energy alternatives. With an unmatched array of facilities at their disposal, Purdue researchers are getting the most out of every flame.

Zucrow Labs is the largest academic propulsion lab in the world. Facilities include:

Working on the combustion engine
  • Multiple reinforced concrete test cells with laser diagnostics
  • Propellant labs with mixers, evaluation rigs, and safety equipment for remote operation
  • Compressed air delivering 3300 cubic feet at 2200 psi
  • Air heater, capable of testing at 1500°F at Mach 4
  • On-site bulk storage and infrastructure for hydrogen, liquid oxygen, liquid nitrogen, and natural gas
  • Data acquisition and storage with analog/digital sensors, high-speed cameras, and controls

More detailed info at


Faculty in Combustion, Energy Utilization, and Thermodynamics

  • Modeling, Experiments and Simulations of turbulent boundary layers: role of initial conditions and bio-inspired micro-surfaces on evolution of velocity/thermal fields.
  • Importance of turbulence and complex topography on wind energy.
  • Integration of renewable with water and thermal storage.
  • Translational research focus on renewable energy & society
  • Wall interaction (e.g., bio-inspired micro surfaces) in respiratory flows
  • Big data in turbulence, renewable energy and biomedical engineering.
  • Energy and social equality
  • Indoor and outdoor airflow modeling by computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and measurements
  • Building ventilation systems
  • Indoor air quality (IAQ)
  • Energy analysis
  • Laser-absorption spectroscopy, laser-induced fluorescence, & IR imaging sensors for gas temperature, pressure, velocity, and chemical species
  • Molecular spectroscopy, photophysics, & energy transfer in gases
  • Energetic materials (e.g., explosives & propellants) detection & combustion
  • Combustion and propulsion systems (small and large scale)
  • Biomedical sensing
  • Sustainable energy and environment
  • Combustion and turbulent reacting flows
  • Combustion and heat transfer in materials
  • Biomedical flows and heat transfer
  • Global policy research
  • Thermal sciences as applied to HVAC&R systems and equipment
  • Application of Artificial Intelligence for Data-Driven Modeling, Analysis, Optimization and Control
  • Turbulence, Combustion, Sprays, and Particle Laden Flows
  • Multiscale and Multiphysics Modeling and Simulation
  • Renewable Energy
  • High Performance Computing
  • Dynamic modeling and optimal control; model predictive control; decentralized control
  • Thermodynamics-based optimization; entropy generation minimization; exergy analysis
  • Integrated energy management and storage in distributed energy systems, building systems
  • Laser diagnostics
  • Diode-laser-based sensors
  • Gas turbine and internal engine combustion
  • Materials processing and synthesis
  • Combustion science
  • Fluid mechanics and heat transfer
  • Laser spectroscopy and imaging for combustion, sprays, energetics, hypersonics, plasmas, and non-equilibrium flows
  • Applications to gas-turbine, rocket, internal combustion, and scramjet engine performance, efficiency, and emissions
  • Thermal-fluid behavior at the extremes, including turbulent, high-temperature, high-pressure, multiphase, and non-equilibrium reacting flows
  • Spray and spray measurements
  • Fluid mechanic instability
  • Multiphase combustion, particularly related to propellants, explosives, and pyrotechnics
  • Nanoscale composite energetic materials
  • Advanced energetic materials
  • Microscale combustion
  • Desalination & Water Treatment
  • Water-Food-Energy Nexus
  • Thermofluids
  • Nanotechnology
  • Membrane Science

Research Areas