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Leading the flight revolution

Jack J. McNamaraJack J. McNamara

With atmospheric hypersonic flight planned for the next decade or two, it won’t be long before aircraft traveling up to 4,000 miles per hour are changing the face (and speed) of aviation.

Associate Professor Jack J. McNamara’s research aims to develop the technologies needed to bring hypersonic flight from concept to reality, with a particular focus on the nation’s military forces. His work seeks to impact complex, design-driving and design-opening interactions at both the component and vehicle levels.

As the director of the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL)-University Collaborative Center in Structural Sciences, McNamara and his multi-disciplinary team pursue solutions for the technical challenges obstructing the development of reusable hypersonic aircraft. The center’s partners include the AFRL, Arizona State University, the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign and Johns Hopkins University.

“Because of the unique challenges of hypersonic environments, the technical approach toward this goal is to understand, model and carry out analysis on complex multi-scale, multi-physics responses and interactions throughout the fluid, structure and material,” said McNamara, who also directs Ohio State’s Multi-Physics Interactions Research Group.

Consistent with these goals, his most recent project, sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, will enable the development of reliable tools for the tractable response and life prediction of structural systems through deep understanding of the interaction between high-speed turbulence and compliant surfaces.

This project is using a progressive decomposition of the fluid/structure interaction to improve researchers’ understanding of the highly nonlinear interactions and energy transfer for both turbulent boundary layer and shock/boundary-layer interaction environments. His collaborators include MAE’s Glenn Chair and Professor Datta V. Gaitonde and Professor Joanna Austin, California Institute of Technology.

“Understanding turbulence is a long-standing challenge in the scientific and technical community, and this project seeks to tackle the problem at another level of complexity,” said McNamara.

“Hypersonics have very thin operational margins – the only way around them is a deep understanding of the dominant physics and the development of multi-disciplinary engineering solutions.”

His focus is clear: Make hypersonic flight possible, while managing the extreme environment encountered when flying five times faster than the speed of sound.