The combustion research facility seen from overhead

After 40 years, Sandia’s Combustion Research Facility still driving toward the future

May 18, 2021 12:18 pm Published by

The weather on March 6, 1981, was nothing too remarkable for the San Francisco Bay Area — a little drizzle with temperatures in the 50s and fairly calm wind.

The remarkable event that day was taking place on Sandia National Laboratories’ California campus, but even those who participated in the opening of the newly built Combustion Research Facility had no idea how much that institution would change the world.

“There isn’t a single modern vehicle on the road today that hasn’t benefitted from the work done at the CRF,” said Bob Carling, who spent 27 years doing research at the facility.

“It was designed to provide an understanding of combustion in response to the energy crisis,” explained Craig Taatjes, who supervises physical sciences research at Sandia, referring to the 1970s oil embargo by members of OPEC that drove a surge in gasoline prices and a supply shortage in the United States. At that time, the nation had grown increasingly dependent upon imported oil and needed to find ways to be more energy self-sufficient.

“The other part of the vision was that it be a collaborative facility where researchers from around the world could participate, teach us and learn from us,” Taatjes added. “One of the big visions was to bring together the applied offices and fundamental offices in one place.”

Senior manager Chris Shaddix, who headed energy and transportation sciences before being recently appointed to manager another department at Sandia, said that having applied science researchers and fundamental scientists under one roof meant that sometimes the applied scientists would modify techniques to work in their environment.

“That would lead to new insights that were useful to doing more fundamental studies. That was a common thread,” Shaddix said.

Read the complete press release to explore advances and breakthroughs from the facility’s 40-year history. Learn more about ongoing research programs related to transportation and combustion.

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