University of Minnesota
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MURI grant research critical to development of hypersonic vehicles

Department of Chemistry Regents Professor Donald Truhlar is part of a $1.5 million Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant project, conducting research critical to the development of hypersonic vehicles.

The United States Air Force plans to develop hypersonic vehicles that will be in the atmosphere for extended period of times. Those vehicles will be exposed to high temperature interactions between gases and the vehicle surfaces, resulting in the need for advanced thermal protection systems.

A world leader in the theoretical and computational methods that describe the potentials and dynamics of molecule-to-molecule and molecule-to-surface collisions, Truhlar will bring his expertise in quantum chemistry and reaction dynamics to the research team. He will use high-level modeling—quantum mechanical electronic structure calculations—to look at hypersonic flow problems involving the vast number of molecular-scale interactions between gases and vehicle surfaces. He will apply recently developed, highly successful, density functionals and wave function theory to develop interaction potentials.

Truhlar also will be working on the development of force fields that can be used to predict energy transfer cross sections and chemical reaction rates during gas-phase and gas-surface collisions in simulations of shock layers around the vehicles.

Team members also include University of Minnesota Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics scientists Graham Chandler, who is serving as principal investigator, and Thomas Schwartzentruber as well as scientists from Calspan University at the Buffalo Research Center, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Montana State University, and Pennsylvania State University.

The Department of Chemistry and Department of Aerospace, Engineering and Mechanics are part of the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering.