Skip to main content

News & Events

Roberts wins AIAA Abe M. Zarem Graduate Award

Clarice Mauer
February 2, 2024

A&A’s Quentin Roberts (MS ‘23) won the prestigious AIAA Abe M. Zarem Graduate Award, recognizing his paper "Pre-Ignition Propellant Mixing in Rotating Detonation Rocket Engine."

Quentin Roberts

Quentin Roberts

This paper delves into the intricate realm of propellant mixing, and previously won the second-place honor in the graduate student division at the AIAA Region VI student conference competition held at UC Davis last March.

With this award, Roberts represented the United States at the 74th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Baku, Azerbaijan, in October 2023, and also earned a fully funded trip to SciTech 2024 in Orlando.

The Rotating Detonation Engine (RDE), a revolutionary propulsion system, harnesses controlled explosions to generate detonation waves. Roberts' groundbreaking research reveals that this method delivers higher efficiency compared to existing propulsion systems, requiring less fuel while yielding greater power.

Leveraging computational fluid dynamics, he examined the impact of varied gap widths on propellant mixedness. Roberts also employed sophisticated models to simulate oxygen and methane injections, meticulously investigating flow conditions and the degree of mixing before ignition. His work not only advances the understanding of propulsion technology but also positions him as a trailblazer in the realm of aerospace engineering.

Of the evolution of the research, Roberts’ faculty adviser Carl Knowlen said, “Quentin's subsequent presentation of the expanded paper at the 2024 SciTech forum was received with much acclaim. His formulation of mixedness and tracking its behavior in complex rotating detonation engine geometries was considered a significant advancement in injector design evaluation and has encouraged similar studies at other universities.“