Professor Emeritus, MAE
Combustion, fluid mechanics, optical spectroscopy, laser and electron beam diagnostics, molecular energy transfer, and hypersonic gas dynamics.
Professor Cattolica develops and employs diagnostic tools that are leading to a better understanding of the mechanics of combustion. He is extending the application of spectroscopic diagnostics in combustion, reacting flows, and gas dynamics. His research includes: spectroscopic measurements of temperature and species concentration in strained flames; plasma temperature measurements in semiconductor plasma reactors (where ions are used etch circuit features); and droplet size and velocity characteristics of pulsed fuel injectors for propulsion applications. He is currently developing laser techniques to accurately measure the chemical structure of flames including the formation of nitric oxide, a principal combustion emission. Cattolica's measurements are helping Jacobs School colleagues Kalyanansundaram Seshadri and Forman A. Williams validate the "San Diego Mechanism," a library of chemical kinetic mechanisms used to model the physical and chemical characteristics of the combustion of common fuels including the prediction of pollutant formation. The mechanism is expected to be useful for engine studies and in other areas where computerized simulations should account for the effects of varying fuel mixtures. Cattolica can provide critical perspective on matters of import to both environmental and energy policy including: the questionable use of oxygenates (ethanol and MTBE) as gasoline additives, greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, clean-engine technology, and renewable energy from biomass.
Robert J. Cattolica, Associate Director of the Jacobs Schools' Center for Energy Research, received his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1973. After a two-year NSF postdoctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley, he joined the Sandia National Laboratories. As a member of the Combustion Research Facility at Sandia, he became a Distinguished Member of the technical staff. He has been on the faculty at UCSD since 1990.