Indian American's firm does pioneering research in aviation
Monday, 19 March 2007, 05:00 Hrs
New York: Cutting edge research by a firm owned by an Indian American and the University of Maryland has solved a fuel injection bottleneck that could eventually reduce travel time between Washington and Tokyo to two hours. Ajay Kothari, president of Maryland-based Astrox Corp., an engineering firm providing a range of research and development services for aerospace, aviation and software systems, said that the innovative research solved a fuel-mixing problem for combustion at "Mach 6 and above". Through the Maryland industrial partnerships programme at the University of Maryland, mechanical engineering professor Ashwani K. Gupta, faculty member Kenneth Yu and graduate student Ram A. Balar successfully designed and tested a combustor for Astrox' space plane that uses an inward-turning scramjet engine. The team tested the combustor at Mach 2, twice the speed of sound, in the university's supersonic wind tunnel. "Roughly speaking, you're looking at the air flow travelling 1,000 metres-per-second inside the combustor," said Yu. "The combustor is a metre long, so you have one millisecond for everything to happen - not just the fuel and air mixing - but the burning as well." The challenge, therefore, was to mix the fuel with the air quickly, before combustion occurs, with the air travelling at high speeds. In the near future, airplanes designed by Astrox may be able to travel above the earth's atmosphere at speeds as fast as Mach 25, according to Indian West, an ethnic Indian newspaper. "Hypersonic space planes could revolutionise the transportation industry, much like jet planes did for subsonic commercial aviation 50 years ago," Kothari said. Gujarat-born Kothari founded Astrox in 1987. He has been the project leader on a number of projects for the NASA, US armed forces as well as McDonnell Douglas Corporation.