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.

In addition, Purdue has unmatched research facilities in the diagnostics of flames and combustion. The High Pressure Combustion Laboratory at Zucrow Labs is the only facility of its kind in the world. It includes the Tebbe TDI Laser Lab, a 2,000 square-foot climate controlled facility, runs adjacent to 5 brand new test cells, for optimal inclusion of laser diagnostic measurements in combustion experiments.

Purdue is also well known for its work with energetic materials: propellants, explosives, and pyrotechnics. At the Purdue Energetics Research Center, new advancements are being made in the formulation of rocket fuel, ammunition, controlled detonations and explosions, and much more.

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

  • 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
  • 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
  • Laser diagnostics
  • Diode-laser-based sensors
  • Gas turbine and internal engine combustion
  • Materials processing and synthesis
  • Combustion science
  • Fluid mechanics and heat transfer
  • Dissimilar material 3D printing
  • Additive manufacturing of energetic materials
  • Additive manufacturing of materials for high temperature applications
  • Quality control in additive manufacturing
  • 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
  • Gas turbine combustion
  • Internal combustion engines
  • Laser-based spectroscopy
  • Compact high speed turbomachinery: Design, analysis (experimental-numerical), cavity and tip flows, flow control
  • High speed propulsion: Novel cycle development, intakes, boundary layer transition, combustion
  • Development of measurement techniques and data processing
  • Nonlinear Dynamics and Vibration
  • Resonant Micro/Nanosystems
  • Microscale Sensors and Actuators
  • 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