Since 1948, Purdue researchers have set the standard for 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 propulsion engineers are in high demand.

Purdue's expertise also includes turbines and compressors, powering the next generation of jet engines. With an unmatched array of wind tunnels and other facilities, they are also investigating the future of hypersonics: Mach 4, Mach 6, and beyond!

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 Propulsion

  • Modeling, analysis, and control of thermal systems
  • 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
  • Aerothermal aspects of turbomachinery
  • Axial and radial compressor performance
  • Experimental methods in fluid mechanics
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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