Southern Company sponsors participation in NASA project

Southern Company, one of the nation’s largest energy producers, is sponsoring a high-altitude research project to study the combustion process in a simulated weightless environment.

The research will be conducted by a team of students, recent graduates and faculty from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) mechanical engineering department. Four members of the team will participate in flights aboard NASA’s KC-135A aircraft –the agency’s version of a Boeing 707. The students will be taken eight miles up, then the aircraft will dive earthward creating a gravity-free environment. The flights are scheduled March 12-16 from NASA’s space center in Houston.

The primary objective of the project is to study the behavior of a small flame in a reduced gravity environment. This will help provide researchers a better understanding of combustion and could ultimately lead to the development of more efficient combustion technologies for energy production.

“This research not only supports our advanced combustion studies but also provides an avenue for students to apply their engineering education,” said Dr. Charles Goodman, Southern Company’s senior vice president of research and environmental affairs. “Fundamental research is a door to new technologies. As a leader in generation technology and combustion research, we certainly have an interest in the results, which could have implications for us as we continue to pursue ways to produce electricity more efficiently and cleaner than ever before.”

The UAB team includes Rob Hayes, a recent graduate and current employee in Southern Company’s engineering organization; David Murphy, a sophomore at UAB and presently interning at Southern Company; John Carlson, a recent graduate; and Joe Davis, a junior at the university. Dr. John Baker, mechanical engineering professor, and Mark Berry, also a UAB graduate and current Southern Company employee, worked closely with the team during preparation of the experiment.

Southern Company’s leadership in technology and research includes contributions to the preservation of natural resources. For example, the company is evaluating the use of fuel cells as a source for electrical power; testing and supporting research into microturbines as one example of a stand-alone technology for on-site electric generation; providing resources in the effort to develop enhanced battery technology for electric vehicles; and participating in photovoltaic research, among other initiatives.

Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is an international energy company that operates more than 48,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity worldwide. It is one of the largest producers of electricity in the United States and one of the world’s largest independent power producers. Southern Company subsidiaries and their affiliates serve 12 million retail customers worldwide and millions more through the wholesale market. Based in Atlanta, Southern Company is the parent firm of Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power, Savannah Electric and Mirant. Southern Company also provides energy-related marketing, risk management and technical services in the United States and Europe and offers Southern LINC wireless telecommunications.

Media: Included are the links for the UAB project team Web site and the NASA project Web site.

  • UAB project team site

  • NASA project site