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NETL Researcher To Brief Interagency Advanced Power Group on Pressure Gain Combustion Progress
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NETL research engineer Don Ferguson, Ph.D., will share information about the laboratory’s pressure gain combustion (PGC) research during a meeting of the Interagency Advanced Power Group (IAPG) — the premier organization coordinating the collaboration and information exchange of advanced power research and development within the U.S. government — set for May 21-23 at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Ferguson will give a virtual presentation to IAPG’s Mechanical Working Group. Bhima Sastri of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management is vice chair of the group.

PGC has the potential to significantly improve performance when integrated with a hydrogen-fueled combustion gas turbine used for land-based power generation. Conventional gas turbine engines undergo steady, constant pressure combustion, while the goal of NETL research is to develop a process that produces an increase in pressure through detonation-mode combustion.  When performed in a gas turbine engine, this would provide the ability to extract more useful energy from the fuel ultimately reducing the cost of electricity. Detonation-based combustion offers additional benefits when using hydrogen as a fuel such as improved combustion stability and low NOx emissions.

While DOE is pursing PGC for power generation, there is also a large interest for its use in propulsion applications.  This dual-use capacity has brought PGC to the attention of IAPG, whose members consists of government agencies including the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, DOE, Department of Transportation, NASA and the U.S. Navy.  The mission of the IAPG is to facilitate information exchange in areas of advanced power technology between government agencies in order to accelerate technology development.

Ferguson’s presentation will address NETL’s work on combustion control strategies, improved operability and current understanding of combustion fundamentals associated with hydrogen-air detonation.

Ferguson is a research engineer on the NETL Thermal Sciences Team and was recently selected to serve as a fellow in the 2024 Cohort of the Oppenheimer Science and Energy Leadership Program. He is a leading authority on gas and liquid fuel combustion, fluid dynamics and thermal sciences for advanced processes and energy applications, and a recognized expert in the fields of pressure gain combustion and thermoacoustic instabilities in gas turbines.

In addition to his research, Ferguson serves as the DOE representative to the Department of Defense (DOD) Science and Technology Development Steering Committee for Advanced Turbine Technologies for Affordable Mission Program and the National Rotating Detonation Engine Research Council. He is also the current chair of the Propulsion and Power System Alliance, which is composed of researchers and program leads from NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, DOD and DOE, and is the vice-chair for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Pressure Gain Combustion Technical Committee. 

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By using its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.