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The Department of Defense has awarded a $600,000 grant to Assistant Professor Kareem Ahmed through its Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions Research and Education Program. The funding supports the acquisition of ultrafast advanced laser and camera equipment that will further his research on hypersonics.

The DoD received 175 eligible proposals for equipment or instrumentation funding this year, but only 59 researchers at 44 institutions were selected. The goal of the funding is to accelerate the scientific and engineering research that is critical to the DoD’s national security functions.

“This highlights the critical nature of the research being explored and the need for accelerating the research to address the national priority focus on hypersonics,” Ahmed said.

Because UCF is a Hispanic Serving Institution, UCF researchers are qualified to receive funding through the HBCU/MSI program. Cyndia Morales Muñiz, UCF’s director of HSI culture and partnerships, ensures that faculty are aware of UCF’s eligibility for such competitions.

“I am happy to see our faculty making the most of the funding opportunities available to us as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and greatly appreciate Dr. Ahmed’s contribution to these efforts,” she said.

Ahmed, who leads the Propulsion and Energy Research Lab, will use the grant to purchase a custom built, ultrafast pulse burst laser as well as an ultra-high-speed camera. This equipment will allow him and his team to measure the extreme velocities, pressures, temperatures and reactions associated with “turbulent mixing,” the key behind his discovery of hypersonic travel and the explosion mechanism of Type Ia supernovae.

“It is challenging to explore hypersonic and high-speed propulsion and energy engine technologies at these extreme velocities using traditional diagnostics, despite the novelty of the research,” he said. “This new diagnostic capability provides our graduate students with the appropriate tools for exploring hypersonics.”

These tools also offer capabilities not currently found at UCF, and will facilitate the PERL Lab’s development into a hypersonic Mach 5 propulsion engine, which Ahmed is working on through a separate grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

He also plans to incorporate the equipment into university activities that encourage students to pursue careers in STEM-related fields, including iSTEM’s Camp Connect program, a week-long STEM summer camp for middle school and high school students. Ahmed is also developing a summer propulsion and energy retreat that exposes K-12 students to the areas of propulsion, fluid dynamics and combustion science.