MHz Thermodynamic Analysis of a Rotating Detonation Rockets at AFRL

UCLA researchers collaborate with Opto-Knowledge Systems, Inc. and the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop a high-speed optical sensing method for time-resolved temperature, pressure, and species measurements at up to 3 MHz measurement rates to analyze a methane-oxygen annular detonation rocket combustor. RDREs have potential to dramatically improve rocket fuel efficiency.

Virtual Group Meetings Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Although the COVID-19 pandemic required physical distancing, weekly virtual lab group meetings have helped us mitigate stresses of social distancing (and share some laughs along the way)

First Class of Ph.D. Graduates!

Graduate students Daniel Lee, Chuyu Wei, and Fabio Bendana are the first class of students in our lab to complete their Ph.D. requirements and graduate from UCLA this summer and fall (2020)! They were critical in building up our lab facilities and capabilities and will be taking new positions as experimental scientists and postdoctoral scholars. This photo goes back to the first year they were in our lab (4 years ago); they went to Princeton together for a workshop in combustion science and engineering.

Isabelle Sanders Wins NSERC Canada Fellowship - May

Isabelle Sanders was selected as a 2020 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Scholar, the top distinction in Canada for graduate students in science and engineering! Her research focuses on hybrid rockets as a safer and more cost-effective means for in-space propulsion. Her current work involves thermochemical imaging of the reaction layer in hybrid rockets using laser absorption tomography aimed at improving motor design and combustion performance.


Detonation Impulse Facility Completed - October

Our detonation impulse facility was completed after a year and a half of analysis, design, manufacturing, and testing! The project involved a team of graduate and undergraduate students who, with the help of UCLA's R&D Machine Shop, developed the facility completely in house. We recorded our first detonation, which reached speeds of 2500 m/s!

Studying Solid Fuels with NASA JPL and Worcester Polytech

Our lab has begun two new collaborative research projects using our solid fuel combustion facility. A collaboration with NASA JPL aims to improve the performance/efficiency of hybrid rockets and provide insights into hybrid combustion physics and our collaboration with WPI aims to better understand toxicity of fires at the wildland-urban interface.

UCLA Hosts NASA Astronaut Bob Behnken - May

NASA astronaut, Bob Behnken, toured the UCLA engineering facilities with Prof. Spearrin and discussed the value of project-based learning with engineering students. Several UCLA alumni are actively working on the SpaceX rocket that will send Bob Behnken to space! Udpate: Dr. Behnken was one of two astronauts in the first SpaceX crew to launch to the international space station on May 30, 2020. His successful mission marked America's return to space launch since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, and SpaceX's first crewed mission.

Prof. Spearrin represents UCLA to U.S. Congress - March

Professor Spearrin traveled to Washington D.C. as a UCLA representative to U.S. Congress on behalf of the National Science Foundation to share his research and the impact of federal funding in science and engineering. Pictured here on Capitol Hill, Prof. Spearrin spent the day meeting with congressional representatives, concluding with a research exposition that brought together scientific researchers from across the country.

Students Visit NASA JPL and NASA Ames Research Centers

China Hagström, Fabio Bendana, and Josue Castillo are pictured in front of the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover at NASA JPL after presenting their research on the spectroscopic analysis of hybrid rocket combustion efficiency (left). Christopher Jelloian spent the summer with the Aerothermodynamics Branch at NASA Ames Research Center studying numerical models of planetary entry (right).

Collaboration With UCLA Brain Injury Research Center and Children's Hospital

Our lab has begun a collaborative effort with UCLA Medical Center to develop a new breath analysis technique to monitor the state of ketosis of a patient during treatment for traumatic brain injury. It is known that a ketogenic diet can help mitigate epileptic seizures after brain injury, but children on a keto diet regiment can also become too ketotic and enter a dangerous state of keto-acidosis. The current standard for clinical ketone monitoring requires a blood sample. This collaborative project with the Ketogenic Diet Program of the Adolescent Epilepsy Center at UCLA aims to create a less-invasive device that enables more regular ketone monitoring.

Students Present at U.S. National Combustion Meeting - March

Several students (undergraduate and graduate) presented their research at the U.S. National Combustion Meeting in Pasadena, CA and enjoyed a banquet under the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center.

MAE 150C: Combustion and Energy Systems - January

Prof. Spearrin's new MAE 150C Combustion and Energy Systems course launches! The course covers both fundamentals of combustion, including chemical kinetics and transport phenomena in reacting flows, and thermodynamic aspects of practical energy systems (gas turbines, piston-engines, rockets). Combustion is also discussed in the broader context of renewables and environmental impacts.


UCLA Mojave Test Facility Construction - December

Construction of a new propulsion test facility for UCLA begins in Mojave, CA. The facility will provide unique rocket test and launch infrastructure for research and educational activities. The facility will be directed by Dr. Spearrin.

Two Students Win National Fellowships - May

Kevin Schwarm - National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship:
Multi-Physics Analysis of Reacting Sprays Relevant to Rocket Propulsion and Power Generation

Christopher Jelloian - NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship:
Non-Equilibrium Heat Transfer During Mars Entry Using Advanced Laser Diagnostics

Dr. Spearrin receives AFOSR YIP Award - October

Dr. Spearrin named a 2019 recipient of the prestigious Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Program (AFOSR YIP) Award for development and application of a novel laser-based imaging method for the study of reacting fluid dynamics relevant to advanced propulsion.

First Liquid Bi-propellant Rocket Launches from UCLA - March

The UCLA Rocket Project launches a liquid bi-propellant rocket (LOx-ethanol) to 12,000+ ft. in preparation for the FAR-Mars competition. The UCLA Rocket Project is advised by Dr. Spearrin.


Dr. Spearrin Receives National Science Foundation CAREER Award - December

This five year grant will support his research using spectroscopy to understand the chemistry and physics of combustion at high pressures. Knowledge learned from the studies will be applied to the next generation of ultra-efficient engines. The award will also support project-based educational activities led by Dr. Spearrin.

New Spectroscopy and Molecular Gas Dynamics Course - September

Dr. Spearrin's new MAE 259A Spectroscopy and Molecular Gas Dynamics course launches. The course is designed to teach graduate students in engineering the fundamentals of light-matter interactions and gas dynamics at the molecular state.

New Design-Build-Launch Capstone Course - July

Dr. Spearrin's new design-build-launch curriculum for the MAE 157A aerospace capstone class gets featured in an article by UCLA Engineering News. The team-based course taken by seniors in aerospace engineering involved the design, analysis, manufacturing, and testing of mid-power rockets and culminated in a launch competition in the Mojave desert.

Rocket Launch Event with RRS - May

The Spearrin Lab joined members from the Reaction Research Society (RRS) in a launch demonstration of several zinc-sulfur rockets out in Mojave, CA. The Reaction Research Society is the oldest continuously operating amateur experimental rocket group in the United States.

Collaboration with USC - November

Our lab begins a new collaboration with the University of Southern California's Combustion and Fuels Laboratory to study turbulent premixed jet flames using advanced laser diagnostics.

Collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory (Edwards, CA) - August

Graduate researchers Daniel Lee and Fabio Bendana spent part of their summer working on a liquid rocket engine test rig at AFRL in Edwards, CA. Together they developed new laser diagnostic techniques to measure species and temperature at the extreme temperatures and pressures of an LRE combustion chamber.

Official Launch of the @SpearrinLab Twitter Page - June

The official twitter account for the Laser Spectroscopy and Gas Dynamics Laboratory is now live! Follow us @SpearrinLab to see what we're up to!


First Graduate Students Join the Lab! - June

Graduate students Fabio Bendana, Daniel Lee, and Chuyu Wei (left to right) join the Spearrin Lab!

Dr. Spearrin Establishes Laboratory at UCLA - January

Professor Spearrin joins UCLA and establishes the Laser Spectroscopy and Gas Dynamics Laboratory. The lab is located in the state-of-the-art Engineering VI building that recently finished construction.


Textbook Publication - December

Dr. Spearrin co-authors a new textbook on applied spectroscopy, published by Springer. The text provides an introduction to the science that governs the interaction of light and matter (in the gas phase) for the purpose of providing engineers, scientists, and aspiring students the basic knowledge to (1) exploit the light-matter interaction to develop quantitative tools for gas analysis (i.e. optical diagnostics) and (2) to understand and interpret the results of spectroscopic measurements.

SpectraPlot.com launched - January

Dr. Spearrin and colleagues at Lumina Labs, Inc. launch an integrated online simulation tool for spectroscopic data. The tool offers convenient access and visualization of disparate spectral data resources, and is open to public use.

'Rocket Men' article in Stanford Medicine Magazine - October

Stanford Medicine magazine features an article on the extension of laser absorption spectrosopy for breath diagnostics, highlighting an emerging area of cross-disciplinary research and profiling Dr. Spearrin and his colleagues who have driven recent progress in the field with an aim toward addressing pediatric emergency conditions.

Outstanding Paper Award - June

The journal of Measurement Science and Technology recognizes Dr. Spearrin and co-authors with an outstanding paper award for their work developing a new thermometry technique for high enthalpy, supercritical air.