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Stanford joins federal center to lessen aircraft noise, emissions

Last month, Stanford teamed up with seven other universities, 18 industry partners and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to lessen aircraft noise and emissions. The partners will participate in a new FAA Center of Excellence to conduct basic research and engineering development.

"We formed a team and split the workload between the members," explained Nicolas Antoine, a Stanford doctoral candidate developing aircraft-level tools with Professor Ilan Kroo in the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department. "We will be publishing jointly, as every center project has been assigned to teams of multiple universities and industry partners."

A 1990 congressional act authorized six Air Transportation Centers of Excellence to conduct research in airspace and airport planning and design, environment and aviation safety, and to engage in other activities to assure a safe and efficient air transportation system. While Stanford and its partners will address aircraft noise and emissions, the other five centers will focus on computational modeling of aircraft structures, airport pavement technology, operations research, airworthiness assurance and general aviation.

Stanford's academic partners include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which will lead the collaboration, as well as Boise State University, Florida International University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, the University of Central Florida and the University of Missouri-Rolla.

For a complete list of industry partners, which include Boeing, Delta Air Lines, General Electric Aircraft Engines, Pratt & Whitney and United Parcel Service, go to

The team will explore socioeconomic effects of noise and noise mitigation, noise abatement flight procedures, compatible land use management, airport operational controls, and atmospheric and health effects of aviation emissions.

At Stanford, Associate Professor Sanjiva Lele in the Departments of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Mechanical Engineering is working with Richard Miake-Lye of Aerodyne Research Inc. to update a review of recent studies of the atmospheric effects of aircraft emissions.

"We also plan to identify and develop a research program on some key science problems where research can help reduce the uncertainty in making the atmospheric impact assessment," Lele wrote in an e-mail interview.

Assistant Professor Juan Alonso aims to design high-speed aircraft with sufficiently low ground sonic boom that they may be allowed to fly supersonically over land.

"At the moment, supersonic flight over land requires special permission in designated areas," Alonso said. "For example, the Concorde was never allowed to cross the U.S. at supersonic speeds. There is a big business case for this kind of quiet aircraft. Industry has estimated that the market for small supersonic jets (8-10 passengers) can double if the airplanes were allowed to fly faster than the speed of sound over the continental U.S. and Europe."

These kinds of designs can only be created using high-fidelity computational methods that can predict nonlinear interactions between the aircraft and the shock waves in the boom, Alonso said. "In addition, one must be able to change both the shape of the aircraft and the underlying structure so that the boom is minimized," he said. "Using advanced algorithms and high-performance parallel computers, we intend to develop designs that meet these stringent noise requirements."

Meanwhile, Kroo and Antoine are developing tools to extend a suite of design and performance analysis tools currently being developed by Stanford and MIT with funding from the NASA Glenn Research Center.

They also will evaluate the effect of potential policy options, Antoine said. "For example, we will augment the tools to enable us to address questions such as: Will an increase in stringency of noise certification standards lead to aircraft designs that have greater or lesser impact on local air quality and climate?"


By Dawn Levy

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