sealPurdue Business Briefs

September 1998

Research answers burning questions about pollution

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue University researchers are blazing the trail in the use of lasers to detect and measure pollutants in burning fuel, and their efforts could lead to more fuel-efficient, cleaner-burning jet engines.

Normand Laurendeau, the Reilly Professor of Combustion Engineering at Purdue, has spent the past 15 years developing novel ways to "look" into flames and determine the amount of pollutants, such as nitric oxide, that are produced during combustion.

Download Photo Here
Photo caption below
Nitric oxide, a primary pollutant produced by aircraft engines, is a major concern because it can damage the Earth's protective ozone layer, Laurendeau says.

"In our latest work, we measured the amount of nitric oxide produced in spray flames, a process where liquid fuel sprays through a small hole to form droplets, which are then ignited," Laurendeau says. "This is the basic combustion process in jet aircraft engines. Before we did this, there was no evidence at all that these measurements could even be made inside fuel sprays, and we're the only lab in the country that has done this."

Laurendeau's doctoral student Clayton Cooper presented results from the spray-flame experiments at the International Symposium on Combustion in Boulder, Colo. The researchers also published an article on their research methods in the July issue of the journal Applied Optics.

Laurendeau is working with jet-engine manufacturers to determine the amount of pollutants that would be produced in more fuel-efficient, next-generation engines, which are designed to use a kind of fuel spray called lean direct injection. He and his students are the first to conduct such diagnostic experiments on this design.

Based on his research, Laurendeau says this type of engine design could significantly reduce nitric oxide production, although more tests are needed to determine exactly how much.

"Our work with lean direct injection spray flames has so far been limited to flames produced at atmospheric pressures," he says. "In a real jet engine, the pressures are much higher, and that's the next step for me and my students -- combining sprays with high pressure."

Cooper, from Batesville, Ark. , has been working in Laurendeau's lab, the Flame Diagnostics Laboratory, for three years. He is building the high-pressure facility to see if the laser-measurement techniques will work on spray flames in that environment.

Lean direct injection engines are now under development, and Laurendeau says the Purdue research will help assure the designers and manufacturers that they can reduce the nitric oxide produced by the new engine.

He says automobile manufacturers also are interested in seeing if his techniques can be applied to examining pollutants produced by car engines, which run on a slightly different type of combustion process than gas turbine engines.

Laurendeau's research is funded by NASA, General Electric and other industrial sponsors.

CONTACTS: Laurendeau, (765) 494-2713; e-mail,, or Cooper, (765) 494-5851; e-mail,

Biotech foods ready for primetime, experts say

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- For many of your favorite foods, the future has arrived.

Genetic engineering, long the focus of anticipation and discussion in American agriculture, entered the realm of reality in a big way in 1998. The fact is that if in the past year you've topped a sandwich with cheese, gobbled down a bowl of cereal, or guzzled a soft drink, chances are that you've eaten foods from genetically modified crops.

Although people in agriculture have been heralding the promise of genetically enhanced crops for 20 years, few products made it to market. Quietly, over the past three years, that has changed in a major way. Marshall Martin, professor of agricultural economics and director of Purdue University's Center for Agricultural Policy and Technology Assessment, says that many common foods now use biotechnology in their production and processing.

"The genetically engineered enzyme chymosin is used in two-thirds to three-quarters of the cheese produced," Martin says. "Bt-corn, which allows the corn plants to resist the corn borer, has found wide acceptance. So everyone is already eating foods produced through biotechnology."

In fact, the use of genetically enhanced corn has increased from 400,000 acres in 1996 to three million acres in 1997 to an estimated 17 million acres planted in 1998. Each year, total corn acreage in the United States is about 80 million acres.

Corn produced through biotechnology is being used in many familiar foods, including breakfast cereals and taco shells. It also is used to make corn syrup, which is used as a sweetener in many foods such as soft drinks, baked goods and candies.

Biotechnology also is used to produce some of our most common foods:

  • Soybeans are used in hundreds of food products, including cooking oil, candies and margarine. In 1997, about 20 million acres of the soybeans planted in the United States were genetically enhanced. Producers planted about 71 million acres in soybeans that year.
  • Milk uses biotechnology because about one-third of all dairy cattle in the United States are given bovine somatotropin, a hormone created through biotechnology, to increase milk production per cow.

CONTACT: Marshall Martin, (765) 494-4268;

Cash in on cost-saving tips

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- It's two days to payday, the cupboard is empty and so is your wallet. Sound familiar? Then maybe it's time to put some cost-saving strategies to work in your budget.

Cutting spending doesn't have to be painful, says Janet Bechman, Cooperative Extension Service specialist in family resource management at Purdue University. Before drastically changing spending habits, she suggests consumers record their spending carefully for one or two weeks. People often find that they spend more money on lunch, vending machines and cigarettes than they realize, she notes.

With spending habits in mind, Bechman offers three words that will help reduce expenditures: Simplify, share and substitute.

To simplify spending, consumers need to consider how much a particular item or service is worth to them personally. Questions to ask include:

  • Do I really need this item?
  • Why do I want this?
  • Is there something I want more?

Another method of cost-cutting is to share costs and use community resources. The rule of thumb may be "don't buy what you can borrow." For example, Bechman says that instead of purchasing books, use the library. For inexpensive recreational activities, use public parks instead of purchasing tickets to a theme park. When purchases are necessary, consider splitting the costs with someone else.

Substitution also can be an effective cost-cutting technique. Bechman says consumers can save by choosing less-expensive options or brands.

"Be aware of what's important in your life," Bechman says. She says that if you enjoy something but it is not a necessity, don't give it up if it will make you miserable. For example, cable television is not a necessity, but it may be cheaper than frequent trips to the movie theater.

Impulse purchases can undo even the best belt-tightening measures. To keep spending under control, Bechman suggests planning ahead by making shopping lists. And don't limit them to grocery shopping lists. Comparison shopping also may save money, because some stores honor other stores' advertisements, she says.

CONTACT: Bechman, (765) 494-8309

Compiled by Kate Walker, (765) 494-2073; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

Photo Caption
Clayton Cooper, Batesville, Ark., adjusts the focus of a laser beam that is used to determine the concentration of the pollutant nitric oxide produced by the flame in the chamber. Cooper, a Purdue doctoral student in mechanical engineering, is conducting research that may help manufacturers produce jet engines that produce fewer pollutants. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Laurendeau.combust
Download Photo Here

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page