Argonne National Laboratory

Measuring Complex Flows Using X-Rays
Validate engine performance faster and more cost-effectively

The Challenge

Multiphase and combusting flows underpin many phenomena that directly affect performance in a number of technologies critical to the defense and aerospace industries. Examples include combustion in scramjets for hypersonic aircraft, gas turbine combustion engines, and rockets.

However, direct measurement of the fundamental characteristics of these flows is frequently hampered by the fact that the combusting region within these flows cannot be accessed using traditional probes, such as optical diagnostics. 

Due to these issues and others, researchers and engineers must rely heavily on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling to drive the design and evaluation of advanced prototypes. Additionally, in order to achieve final validation of prototypes, they must conduct expensive full-scale testing and flight testing to connect CFD predictions with actual flight-demonstrated performance. This adds significant time, cost, and uncertainty to the development process. 

What Argonne Delivers

Argonne researchers have developed a suite of X-ray diagnostics to characterize multiphase and combusting flows using the Advanced Photon Source, one of the most intense sources of X-rays in the Western Hemisphere. These diagnostics can probe and characterize flows inaccessible to optical measurements, including those occurring deep within the structures and materials commonly used by the aerospace and defense industries to make such engines. 

The resulting data is essentially a three-dimensional map of everything of interest occurring within the combusting region of the engine. Argonne’s technology captures critical flow parameters of fuel/air mixing and mixture preparation – density, velocity, multiphase flow morphology and phase boundaries – within the entire flow volume with a high degree of spatial and temporal resolution. Argonne also has considerable expertise in CFD modeling, having applied this expertise primarily to helping industrial partners improve performance in combustion engines. 

The Benefit to the Combustion Community

The primary benefit is experimental validation of engine performance. Through experimental validation, aerospace engines and related systems can be designed, tested, and validated in a more cost-effective manner and in less time. 

Probe within flows inaccessible to optical diagnostics

High spatial and temporal resolution

Paired with CFD modeling expertise

Future Development

Argonne is currently upgrading its facility and infrastructure to support more robust experiments with select industrial and government collaborators. These will provide additional physical space to accommodate more realistic prototype engines; this will also support the requirements necessary for the study of supersonic flow conditions.

Argonne’s vision is to support leading-edge experiments in complex flows and to further advance the state-of-the-art CFD modeling of such flows.

Contact Us

For more information, please contact:


Technical Contact

Business Contact