13th International Workshop on Detonation for Propulsion Held on U-M’s Central Campus

U-M proudly hosts the first IWDP event in the U.S. in 15 years and inspires future work on detonation for propulsion

Throughout the week of June 10, 2024, leaders from academia, government and industry gathered on U-M’s Central Campus for the 13th International Workshop on Detonation for Propulsion (IWDP 2024). The event featured researchers and experts from around the world, all sharing cutting edge technical achievements and new ideas centered around detonations for aerospace propulsion. 

Topics of discussion included a wide scope of ideas, some of which centered around current advancements, computational modeling, simulation and validation, evaluation of performances, diagnostic measurements, thermal management and more. The technical program combined thematic presentations by invited speakers, technical sessions, and panel discussions with invited speakers who exchanged the latest innovations on pending issues of detonation for propulsion. Scientists, engineers and students in the relevant fields were welcomed to participate and present their research contributions. The workshop had a balance of fundamental science and applications, with many examples on how basic science is used to shape advancements in technology.

“The future of propulsion is being decided now. Detonation-based engines are showing considerable promise; this highly-flexible technology can be used with current and emerging fuels, and implemented on aircrafts and rockets, for power generation, and for satellite maneuvering,” explained U-M Aerospace Engineering Professor and Technical Program Committee Chair, Venkat Raman. “A rocket utilizing a detonation engine for part of the flight was flown last year; around the world, researchers have demonstrated hydrogen-based engines that reduce carbon emissions. If successful, this technology will unleash a new era for efficient, sustainable propulsion. This workshop series ensures that we share critical advances in this rapidly progressing field.”

The week-long event emphasized both rotating detonation and pulsed detonation engines, for rocket and air-breathing applications. Attendees provided insights into important practical issues including current and future technological challenges, ways and means of advancing the technology, opportunities for international collaboration, improvement of standard practices and other considerations that can help move technology forward.

“Detonation-based propulsion was pioneered in the west at U-M, from the 1960s onwards, first by Professor Art Nicholls, and then by Professor Sichel and Adamson. Their contributions attracted other researchers to UM, including Professor Piotr Wolanski, who went on to oversee the resurgence of detonation technology in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. Starting from the middle of last decade, Professor Mirko Gamba and I have been awarded several grants to further develop this field. This nearly 60 year link is what makes it special to have this workshop at U-M,” Raman further explained. And while the field may have been pioneered in the 1960s, the last decade has built on this foundation and seen rapid progress in the use of computational methods and modern diagnostic measurements, especially at the University of Michigan.

With this progress in mind, hosting this workshop served as an opportunity to bring state-of-the-art research in advanced propulsion to students, researchers and faculty.

This event marked the first time in 15 years that the workshop has been held in the United States, after a stretch of the event being hosted in Europe and Asia. The significance of this event being held on U-M’s campus adds to the past contributions to the field and how it has evolved over time. Raman goes on to state, “To make this link even more important, many of the top researchers in this country are U-M graduates.”

University of Michigan Aerospace Engineering was proud to host this year’s workshop in partnership with the U-M College of Engineering, the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR, Dr. Steven Martens), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR, Dr. Chiping Li), and many other contributors from the Technical Program Committee. 

Here are additional thoughts and comments from some of our U-M Graduate Students who proudly attended and presented at the IWDP:

PhD student in the Advanced Propulsion Concepts Laboratory (APCL), Sebastian Abisleiman commented – “Presenting at IWDP was a fantastic experience, seeing all the novel research coming out of laboratories all over the country and the world. In my work “Thermochemical Equilibrium Analysis and Detailed Simulation of Conical Detonation Waves,” I presented a predictive method for determining conditions within detonation engine concepts. By comparing this predictive model against numerical simulations, I aim to offer valuable insights into the practical applications and optimization of these engine designs. Returning to the IWDP community after a memorable experience at the conference in Berlin two years ago, the excitement was palpable. 

I was very excited to see all the innovative work from my colleagues. The collaboration and exchange of ideas remain the lifeblood of the IWDP, and I’m proud to be part of a collaborative group that is relentlessly pushing the boundaries of detonative propulsion. The support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), granted through their esteemed fellowship, along with the invaluable guidance from my mentor, Prof. Venkat Raman, has been instrumental in my development and participation at IWDP. I look forward to maintaining this momentum and contributing further to the continued success and evolution of the IWDP community.”

PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering, Vansh Sharma stated – “I recently had the opportunity to participate in IWDP and present my research in a poster format. The workshop convened with over 100 researchers from various corners of the globe, including notable representatives from Japan, Korea, and Spain. This congregation embodied a unique blend of research diversity, all bound by a common goal: advancing detonation-based propulsion technology.

IWDP’s format was focused on fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange. The workshop not only featured substantive presentations but also promoted interactive panel discussions with seasoned industry professionals, influential agency representatives, and ambitious young researchers from prominent organizations such as NASA and AFOSR. These multifaceted dialogues demonstrated the workshop’s commitment to bridging the gap between theory and practice, as well as between generations of researchers.

The engagement extended beyond formal sessions and into a web of networking opportunities. Breakout sessions, strategically interspersed throughout the workshop, afforded attendees the chance to delve deeper into specialized topics, while dinner talks provided a relaxed yet intellectually vibrant ambiance for informal discussions and the formulation of new ideas and partnerships.

As a graduate student, my participation in IWDP, supported by the ONR Fellowship and my mentor Dr. Venkat Raman, was invaluable. I gained a broad perspective on the forefront of propulsion technology and was inspired by the passion that fuels this community’s progress. The IWDP experience has been not just enlightening but also a clear indication of the promising future for detonation-based propulsion research. I’m grateful for this pivotal step in my educational and professional journey.”

PhD candidate in Aerospace Engineering, Riley Huff said –  ​​”IWDP was an overall fantastic conference. The technical presentations were thought provoking and directly relevant to real world needs within our field. The non-technical portions of the conference also led to greater connectivity within the community and opened the door for further discussion of ideas and collaboration opportunities.”

PhD candidate in Aerospace Engineering, Jose Guerrero said – “I felt the IWDP conference was well attended by researchers from around the globe. I got to see how different agencies such as the NETL, NASA, AFRL, JAXA, etc. are each thinking about RDEs/RDREs as far as potential applications and where they are focusing research efforts. Most of what I took away from the conference was from the conversations I had with attendees with similar research focuses.”