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Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) Lab Brandt Pedrow

They call him the Master CHEF!

My name is Brandt Pedrow and I joined the HYPER lab here at WSU in the Fall semester of 2014. I was born and raised in the Moscow area (Idaho, not Russia) and went to the University of Idaho for my undergrad degree. My choice of degree was almost a foregone conclusion as I look at my past, from a young age I loved taking things apart, figuring out how they worked, and fixing them if any repairs were necessary. And some of my favorite activities were building custom model rockets out of old wrapping paper tubes and seeing what crazy things I could do to them. I graduated with a BSME from the Mechanical Engineering program at the University of Idaho in May 2013, and spent the next year working at the NAVAIR Fleet Readiness Center in Cherry Point, North Carolina. There I was working as an engineer to fulfill my commitment for the SMART scholarship which I received while pursuing my BSME. Working at Cherry Point provided a great time for me to grow and mature, not only as an adult but also as an engineer. It gave me ample time to figure out what I would like to do in the future. I believe that graduate school was the next step for me, allowing me to continue learning and to focus more directly on specific areas of Mechanical Engineering that intrigue me most: thermodynamics and heat transfer. During my time as an undergrad these classes helped me look at the world in a new fashion, where the energy in a system can help explain many things, from how an engine is able to run, to how a cup of coffee cools down. While I did not use these disciplines of engineering very much during my time at Cherry Point because it was more focused on the maintenance of helicopters and VTOL aircraft, it was something that still intrigued me. I looked at many grad schools around the country but was drawn towards WSU from the beginning because of its solid reputation of its MME school, as well as because it was located in the Northwest. Having a school with such a good graduate program in mechanical engineering in the perfect location seemed like a no-brainer for me. I was soon drawn toward Professor Leachman’s research. The HYPER lab looked like an amazing opportunity for me as I could not only work with Hydrogen, something that I believe will be very important to the field of engineering but also focus on uses of heat transfer and thermodynamics because of the prevalence of cryogenic temperatures when working with hydrogen. Being able to focus on research and individual learning is exactly what I seek.


My Research:


As long distance human space travel becomes more realistic, the need for long term storage of cryogenic propellants becomes a forefront issue. Effective cryo-fluid system management becomes a necessity to solve this issue. Over a 5 day mission, 1% per day of cryogenic fuel boil-off is not an issue; adding only approximately 6% to the gross lift-off weight (GLOW). Over a 500 day mission, however, this quickly becomes unsustainable due to increased mass required to offset the boil-off, increasing both the GLOW of the vehicle, and cost of a launch. The fuel/oxidizer combination of choice for NASA is LH2 (liquid hydrogen) and LOX (liquid oxygen). The current strategy used on many upper stage vehicles, including United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES), is to use the boil-off gasses of the colder cryogen (LH2) to help insulate the warmer cryogen (LOX) and reduce the static boil-off. Previous research has shown that a catalyst present in hydrogen vapor cooling channels can give a theoretical 50% increase in cooling capacity. Experimental values obtained previously in the Cryo-catalysis Hydrogen Experiment Facility (CHEF) in the Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) lab have approached this limit, as the values showed a 35% increase. This thesis is an extension of previous research, in a practical application. Data was collected for a range of catalyst materials and weight loadings of Fe2O3 and RuO2 catalysts on a Nomex™ Scrim Blanket in a non-isothermal catalytic reactor over a 23 Kelvin input temperature heated up to 90 Kelvin output temperature. An avenue of implementation of this research is on a spacecraft: placing the catalyst within the multi-layer insulation (MLI) blankets currently used to reduce radiation heat transfer to the tank. My research included results of catalyzation of parahydrogen to orthohydrogen gas as well as a catalyzation model to represent the measurements for future use.


Here is a link to my:


Closing Out:

Ending my time at WSU

My time as WSU as a graduate student has come to an end. I successfully defended my thesis, and my last class was passed. And now I am moving on over to Seattle to work for Blue Origin in the fluid systems group. It was a lot of work, a lot of time spent trying to get CHEF to work, and a lot of fun (at least that’s what I’m telling myself!), and overall it was definitely worth it!

The two years here in the HYPER lab have basically flown by, and looking back I’m trying to figure out where all the time went! I spent my first year here taking classes, and doing background research for a project that ultimately never panned out. I got married Kaylynn at the end of my first year of graduate school and then spent a 10-week honeymoon in Kent Washington doing an internship with Blue Origin. (Don’t worry, Kaylynn and I are planning a REAL honeymoon someday) Apparently I really wowed Blue during my time there, because when I applied for a job there I got an offer!!! Ultimately my goal for graduate school was to enable me to get a job that I would really enjoy, and working for Blue Origin fits the bill. Heading over there, I will be joining many of the previous members of the HYPER lab.

Its weird to have suddenly find myself with so little to do that is super pressing after basically an entire year of going non-stop to get my project done in time. But for now, I’m enjoying the feeling before diving back in to design some rockets!! In the meantime, Kaylynn and I have decided to learn Japanese so that we can keep learning even though we’re no longer in school. That was something that really got to me last time I graduate with my bachelor’s, I grew bored not continually expanding my knowledge!


Advice for future students

So, now a little section to the future new members of the lab who might be reading this trying to find out more about the people who used to be around. Just a bit of advice about what you’ll likely run in to as you do graduate school:

  • -Do your background research early, and start writing it up as you can. It doesn’t need to be a final draft from the beginning, but you’ll thank yourself when you’re writing your thesis/dissertation and you already have a lot of the information down.
  • -On the same vein as thesis writing, start on that early too! You’ll be spending enough time in experimentation and analysis of data that you really won’t want to (or have the time) to really spend as much time on each section that you want. As you’re designing, write down a paragraph for your rationale for major decisions, make sure to keep your CAD models well organized with drawings made for important parts. Also, write your thesis in single spaced. This way when you’re done writing 3 or 4 paragraphs you can put it all to double space and see all the extra room that you’ve suddenly taken up! Best…feeling…ever!
  • Take pictures of everything as you are building. You’ll thank yourself later when you have the exact picture that you’re looking for for some obscure build item you did.
  • Get a lab notebook and use it. Use it for anything and everything. Whenever you’re brainstorming designs, write it down; whenever you’re doing background research, take some notes; when you’re doing an experiment, note down any important measurements and irregularities (along with the date and time) so that you have a record of what happened and when it happened!
  • Get to know your lab mates. You’re going to spend a lot of time in the lab, so you might as well have fun while you’re here! Its also very helpful to be able to feel comfortable enough to ask them questions. Often times they have run into the same issue that you’re currently facing, or at least something similar enough that they can help out.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a break.You’ll be doing plenty of work at late hours, and on Saturdays, but try and make sure that you have at least a bit of time where you step away from everything school related and let yourself not get too crazy.
  • As Jake says: Its a marathon, NOT a sprint. There are times to put in lots and lots of effort all at once, but that time isn’t all the time.
Washington State University