Qualcomm Institute Affiliate Featured in Huffington Post for NASA 'Vomit Comet' Flight

By Tiffany Fox, (858) 246-0353, tfox@ucsd.edu

San Diego, Calif., July 18, 2013 — A University of California, San Diego engineering undergraduate and Qualcomm Institute affiliate, Sam Avery, was recently featured in The Huffington Post for his work designing a ‘biofuels in space’ experiment that takes flight today aboard a modified NASA jet. 

The UCSD microgravity fire experiment team: Josh Sui, Sam Avery, Henry Lu and Seeman Farah
The UCSD microgravity fire experiment team: Josh Sui, Sam Avery, Henry Lu and Seeman Farah.

Avery, who is an alumnus of the Qualcomm Institute’s Summer Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, is the lead on the project, which will test how biofuels burn in the weightless and reduced-gravity conditions of the so-called NASA “Vomit Comet.” Other members of the team include UC San Diego engineering students Josh Sui, Henry Lu and Seeman Farah. 

With Avery and his team aboard, the modified aircraft will undergo 28 parabolic flights that mimic various gravitational pulls —  25 microgravity (zero gravity) parabolas, two lunar-gravity parabolas (one-sixth the gravity of planet Earth) and one Mars-gravity parabola (one-third Earth’s gravity). While airbound, the team will employ a device that uses two commercial medical syringes to inject a droplet of combustible fuel onto a small wire suspended near an igniter spark. The researchers will then use cameras to record and observe how the flame develops in a microgravity environment. 

One of the ultimate goals of the experiment is to improve fire safety on space stations, but the results could also lead to an increase in efficiency of biofuel-burning autos and truck engines on Earth.  

The flights will take place in Texas at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which is home to the Microgravity University Program overseeing the UCSD team's flight. 

Avery spent the summer of 2012 in the QI’s Summer Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, where he worked with QI researcher Albert Yu-Min Lin to study ways to reduce high-frequency multi-rotor helicopter frame vibration for aerial videography and photography.  


Media Contacts

 Tiffany Fox, (858) 246-0353, tfox@ucsd.edu

Related Links

'Zero-Gravity' Fire Experiment To Test How Biofuels Burn With Help Of NASA's 'Vomit Comet'