Scientific Contributions of Dr. K. Kailasanath

Dr. Kazhikathra Kailasanath, who retired from the Naval Research Laboratory on 31 October 2017, is a pioneer in the development and application of numerical simulation capabilities to elucidate details of the stability, dynamics, and performance of advanced propulsion systems. Over his 33-year career in government service, he has used his deep insight, gained from exploration of fundamental processes in unsteady combustion, to improve our understanding of the operation and limitations of complex, innovative propulsion systems such as ramjets, ram-accelerators and pulsed and continuous detonation engines. By using numerical simulation to describe key aspects of a propulsion system, he has been able to significantly reduce the time needed to test and evaluate new propulsion concepts or to fix problems with established propulsion systems.

Dr. Kailasanath is the leader of a number of research efforts important to the U.S. Navy, DOD, and NASA, such as programs on shipboard fire and explosion damage control, noise mitigation and emission control concepts, and the design and development of detonation-based engines for propulsion and power. His expertise and broad experience have made him a sought-after consultant to many government and industry projects, such as when he was asked to evaluate a retrofit to the Trident underwater missile propulsion system designed to overcome problems that arose during initial deployment.

Dr. Kailasanath gained his expertise from sustained investigations of the structure, stability, and dynamics of flames and detonations. In the early 1980s, he was among the first to develop a time-dependent detailed model for simulating the ignition, quenching and propagation of premixed flames. This work lead to the first comprehensive, three-dimensional detailed simulations of the structure and stability of flames, both in a microgravity environment and on Earth. Dr. Kailasanath was also a pioneer in the application of large-eddy simulations to discover the details of the interactions between acoustics, large-scale vortical structures, and chemical energy release. One of his significant contributions was to show the direct relation between the fluctuation spectra obtained in experiments and the details of the vortex shedding and merging within the flow field itself.

His early fundamental work on shock-to-detonation transition and the power-energy relations required for detonation initiation played a key role in the development of new techniques for initiating detonations in pulsed detonation engines. In the 1990s, he used his basic understanding of the unsteady reactive flow fields in combustion systems to explore the use of timed-injection of a small quantity of a high-energy fuel to suppress combustion instabilities in ramjets. He has explored and published extensively on the detonative mode of operation of the Ram Accelerator and the use of Laser Supported Detonations for propulsion. Most recently, he has been assessing and documenting the potential of pulsed and continuous detonation engines for air-breathing propulsion.

Dr. Kailasanath has also focused some of his recent efforts on reducing the noise emanating from the exhaust jets of supersonic military aircraft. He along with a team that he recruited, trained and led, first showed computationally that military aircraft jet exhausts always contain shocks because of their inherent design for aircraft maneuverability. This insight was subsequently validated with laboratory experiments. He then used the basic insight gained from the numerical simulations of supersonic jets to propose and evaluate mechanical chevrons and fluidics for jet noise reduction. The most promising concept from his numerical simulations was selected and tested successfully for implementation as a noise-reducing retrofit for the Navy’s F/A-18 supersonic jet aircraft. This accomplishment garnered him a 2010 Delores Etter Top Navy Scientist/Engineer of the Year Award and was also cited in his 2014 Captain Robert Dexter Conrad Award for Scientific Achievement. The Conrad Award also cited his leading and conducting research that demonstrated a Pulsed Detonation combustor retrofit for shipboard gas turbine engines with a 25% reduction in fuel consumption with no loss in generated power.

In addition to these awards, Dr. Kailasananth received the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 2009. He has published over 400 articles and received NRL’s Alan Berman Research Publication Award 8 times. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the American Physical Society, and the Institute of Physics. His broad engagement in the research community includes his service as deputy and associate editors for the AIAA Journal and on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Spray and Combustion Dynamics and the journal Combustion Theory and Modeling.