Beak joins Iowa-led research project studying high-energy fuels

Getting rockets enough energy to escape the earth’s atmosphere is no easy task. It requires certain fuels that release energy at extremely fast rates to propel the machines at five to 10 times the speed of sound. Recently, the United States Department of Defense has given University of Iowa mechanical engineering professor H.S. Udaykumar and University of Missouri chemistry professor Tommy Sewell a five-year, $7.5 billion grant to study these fuels. Udaykumar and Sewell are joined by University of Iowa assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering Stephen Baek on this project. This team is one of 24 across the nation to receive a grant from the Department of Defense’s multidisciplinary university research initiative (MURI) in 2019 and also includes researchers from the University of Illinois and Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University, Perdue University, and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of New York.

Using computer simulations, Udaykumar will study the physics of energetic materials under extreme conditions and Baek will use machine learning to understand the behavior of these materials from the data generated from the experiments.

“The project helps place Iowa on the map as a key contributor to the science of materials under extreme conditions,” Udaykumar told Iowa Now.