Bethany Drain
Bethany Drain's proposed research will focus on measuring the potential performance of different types of biofuel flames with lasers, which could eventually lead to the use of biofuels as an alternative fuel source.

Bethany Drain, an aerospace engineering PhD student working with faculty advisor Philip Varghese, has been awarded the prestigious National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG). Drain's proposed research focuses on measuring the potential performance of different types of biofuel flames, which could eventually lead to the use of biofuels as an alternative fuel source.

NDSEG fellowships are awarded by the Department of Defense to individuals trained in science and engineering disciplines whose research is considered to be of military importance. The NDSEG Fellowship provides three years of funding that covers full tuition and fees, a monthly stipend and medical insurance.

"Few flame measurements with biofuels have been performed, so it's an important step to see how these flames behave," said Drain. "These measurements will give us insight on the reaction taking place and the thermal energy being released by the flame."

Drain plans to use Raman spectroscopy to take measurements of species concentrations within multiple biofuel flames and temperature at different points throughout the flames. Raman spectroscopy is an experimental technique that uses a laser to interact with molecules within the flame and measures the inelastically scattered radiation. In this case, Drain will be experimenting on steady laminar flames burning biofuels. The simple flow enables engineers to study details of the chemical reactions of these alternate fuels and see how they differ in detail from more conventional fuels. The results of this research will help determine how different biofuels might be expected to perform in an engine or turbine where the flows are much more complicated.

"My research is important due to the increasing demand for alternative fuel sources, and combustion characterization is one step required before the implementation of biofuels becomes feasible, " said Drain.

Drain's future plans after graduation are yet to be determined, but she hopes to continue conducting research at a government lab or for a large company.