Penn State Gas Dynamics Lab

301D Reber Building
University Park, PA 16802


fax: 814-865-0118

GDL Overview

The Penn State Gas Dynamics Laboratory conducts research on a variety of thermal-fluid dynamics topics while educating graduate and undergraduate students. Our philosophy is to perform high-quality, cutting-edge research while educating students in the research process, including the design of experiments, data collection and analysis, research sponsor interaction and technical writing.

Our research focus is experimental thermal-fluid dynamics with specialties in optical flow diagnostics. We pride ourselves on being the world leaders in refractive flow imaging using developing techniques including schlieren and shadowgraphy. Our experimental research generally applies these techniques to visualize phenomena that are invisible to the naked eye, including thermal convection, species concentration gradients and gas-dynamic phenomena such as shock waves and expansion fans. We have developed unique facilities to perform these visualizations across a range of time and length scales, from the low-speed convection of heat from the human body to the high-speed analysis of shock wave propagation from explosions. Our laboratory facilities allow us to visualize flows across a range of scales, from under a microscope to within our full-scale schlieren system which has a 2 x 3 m test section. We have also developed unique capabilities for performing outdoor flow visualizations which allow us to image flows on a near-unlimited scale.

Our research interests include optical flow diagnostics development, Homeland Security applications, energetic material characterization and industrial thermal-fluid problems. Research in the laboratory is sponsored by government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, NASA and DARPA, along with several corporate sponsors.

We teach our students a holistic approach to engineering research, emphasizing informed, clever experimentation aimed at revealing the underlying physics of a problem and suggesting potential innovations. Students in the Gas Dynamics Laboratory conduct their research under the guidance of Dr. Gary Settles and the research staff and ultimately write and present their own results at national and international technical meetings and in peer-reviewed technical journals. More than 18 Ph.D. degrees and 25 Master of Science degrees have been conferred by Penn State based on research conducted in our laboratory. Upon graduation, our students are thoroughly prepared for research careers in academia, government or corporate laboratories.


Recent News

  • April - Forrest presented a paper titled "Modern optical methods for determining the shock Hugoniot of transparent solids" at the College of Engineering Research Symposium (CERS)
  • April - Our website was redesigned thanks to Matthew Lindenberg and Tory Fryer