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

  • Acoustics
  • Active and passive noise control
  • Sound field visualization
  • Structural acoustics and wave propagation in structures
  • Noise control material modeling
  • Applied signal processing
  • 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
  • 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
  • Dissimilar material 3D printing
  • Additive manufacturing of energetic materials
  • Additive manufacturing of materials for high temperature applications
  • Quality control in additive manufacturing
  • Advancement of next-generation propulsion concepts including Rotating Detonation Engines (RDEs), Rotating Detonation Rocket Engines (RDREs) and Scramjet Engines
  • Laser diagnostics development for applied thermal environments including RDEs, RDREs, gas-turbines, rockets, IC engines, and scramjet engines
  • Laser Diagnostics and Spectroscopy for detonations, combustion, sprays, energetics, propellants, hypersonics, plasmas, and non-equilibrium flows
  • Estimation of performance, efficiency and emissions using state of the art optical diagnostics (PLIF, CARS, TP-LIF, PIV, 3D Imaging, X-Rays, PIV, Molecular Tagging, Thermographic Phosphors and Pressure Sensitive Paints)
  • Thermal-fluid behavior at the extremes, including turbulent, acoustically coupled, high-temperature, high-pressure, multiphase, and non-equilibrium reacting flows
  • Gas turbine combustion
  • Internal combustion engines
  • Laser-based spectroscopy
  • Turbomachinery, turbines
  • Measurement techniques, experimental turbomachinery
  • Air-breathing propulsion
  • Multiphase combustion, particularly related to propellants, explosives, and pyrotechnics
  • Nanoscale composite energetic materials
  • Advanced energetic materials
  • Microscale combustion
  • Modeling and simulation of hydraulic systems
  • Modeling and testing of pumps and motors for fluid power applications
  • Hydraulic valves modeling and testing
  • Reduction of noise emissions in fluid power systems