Aerospace research laboratory expands, renovates

Purdue University is expanding the Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, which are focused on aerospace research, and will include test cells to support laser-based measurements as well as additional space for faculty and students.


Purdue President Mitch Daniels speaks during the announcement of the Lilly Endowment Inc. grant to the university on February 18. Courtesy: Charles Jischke, Purdue UniversityPurdue University is expanding the Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, which are focused on aerospace research for NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and other agencies and companies in the field. Expansions to the laboratories will include test cells to support laser-based measurements in a building that will be adjacent to the high-pressure lab. The project also will include renovations to the high-pressure lab as well as additional office space for faculty and students. Zucrow is jointly operated by the university's School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Zucrow was founded in 1946 on a 24-acre site and comprises six facilities. It has produced more than 1,000 graduates in its 70-year history, including NASA astronauts. Notable graduates include Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan, Roger Chaffee, and Virgil "Gus" Grissom. The labs specialize in rockets and gas-turbine engines, with faculty and students performing a wide range of propulsion-related research.

The existing high-pressure lab includes two test cells with two test beds each. The lab houses were developed in 1964 as a part of NASA's Apollo program. One of the cells is for rocket testing, while the other is used for combustion research in turbine engines. The new building will house five test cells and allow companies to have their own research space in addition to space for students and faculty.

The new building will also have a 2,000-sq-ft laser lab to study combustion in jet engines. The studies are designed to enable engineers to see what happens inside a jet engine's combustor. This, in turn, provides the university with data to construct models to better simulate performance and improve designs.

Another key upgrade is a new air heater, which was installed in January. The new system will heat air to as high as 1,500 F at a pressure of up to 850 psi. The new heater is critical to developing better jet engines because it will allow experiments to operate under higher temperatures and pressures than currently possible.

Audience members gather in Armstrong Hall’s Kurz Atrium for the announcement on February 18. Courtesy: Charles Jischke, Purdue UniversityConstruction is expected to begin in 2016 on the one-floor, 9,600-sq-ft facility. The cost of building the facility is $8.2 million; $5 million is coming from Lilly Endowment Inc. as part of a larger $40 million grant to the university. The donation is the largest cash donation Purdue University has ever received. The project is part of a larger effort by the university to strategically grow the number of students and faculty in the College of Engineering. This is partly a response to the need for skilled workers to replace an aging workforce in engineering and manufacturing industries. Construction is expected to last one year, with the new facility opening in 2017.

Other investments being funded by the Lilly Endowment for engineering include $13.5 million for a $54 million Flex Lab in the College of Engineering. This lab is designed to enable faculty teams to collaborate on subjects from advanced manufacturing to imaging, and from information technology to medical devices. The planned 75,000-sq-ft Flex Lab is critical to the college's strategic growth in engineering and will boost industry- and government-funded research collaborations and intellectual property development.

- Edited from press releases from Purdue News by Julie Rosa and Emil Venere. Chris Vavra is production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, 


Key Concepts

  • Purdue University is renovating and adding to the Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, which are focused on aerospace research for NASA and the U.S. Air Force.
  • The additions and renovations will allow for more research from corporations and the government as well as more space for students and faculty.
  • More than half of the money being spent on the renovation and additions come from Lilly Endowment Inc., which has donated $40 million to the university.

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