A significant amount of the funds allocated to universities through the Russian governmental Program “5-100” aimed for improving the competitiveness of leading Russian universities is intended to support fundamental science in Russia. Under Project 5-100, the “Physics and Chemistry of Combustion” laboratory of Samara National Research University received funding for in-depth research.
The fields of future studies include the process of examination in complex nonequilibrium quantum systems, quantum-mechanical calculations of potential energy surfaces for reactions involving oxygen and alkali metal molecules, analysis of the organic molecule decomposition patterns in a high-temperature microreactor, experimental studies and kinetic modelling of laminar flames and the reaction of resonantly stabilized free radicals in combustion.
These efforts became part of the laboratory’s systematic research in the chemical and physical combustion processes. Besides purely scientific interest, the results of experts’ work are essential for creating new engine types that will be more efficient and environmentally friendly than existing ones.
One of the notable achievements of the laboratory’s research team was the discovery of previously unknown formation mechanisms of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) with varied flat or non-flat structures. These chemicals, dangerous to humans, are present in the hydrogen engine exhaust.
Previously it was thought that PAHs are formed only at temperatures above 700°C achieved in the combustion chambers of aircraft and automobile engines. Scientists from the Samara University proved the possibility of PAH formation at extremely low temperatures on planets with hydrocarbon-rich atmospheres. For example, on Titan at a temperature of -183°C.
The majority of the work is carried out with the help of a special experimental setup for combustion reactions research. This unique equipment was created in collaboration with Professor of the University of Hawaii Ralph Kaiser. Aside from the Samara University laboratory, there are only three similar units in the world: two in the United States and one in China. With this installation, scientists will be able to better understand the formation processes of planets and other celestial bodies.
The Samara laboratory is an example of successful mutually beneficial cooperation between different countries. The laboratory is headed by Chief Researcher Alexander Mebel, a professor at the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department of Florida International University (Miami, USA). Under the Dr Mebel’s guidance, an international team of scientists from around the world, including Michael Franklach (University of California at Berkeley), Ralph Keizer (University of Hawaii), Alexander Konnov (University of Lund), Michael Haven (Emory University) and other world-class experts, studies combustion processes.
The results of their joint research are published in more than 30 articles in the world’s leading scientific journals such as Nature Astronomy, Nature Communications, Angewandte Chemie.