Engineering Departments

Walter O’Brien receives the IGTI Aircraft Engine Technology Award for 2012


Walter F. O’Brien
Blacksburg, VA , April 25, 2012
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Walter F. O’Brien, who holds the J. Bernard Jones Professorship of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, will be awarded the 2012 International Gas Turbine Institute (IGTI), Aircraft Engine Technology Award at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Turbo Expo.

O’Brien is receiving this honor for “his sustained personal creative contributions to aircraft engine technology in the areas of aircraft engine design, and/or research and development in the fields of combustion and fuels; heat transfer; manufacturing materials and metallurgy; structures and dynamics; controls, diagnostics and instrumentation and turbomachinery tested in an industrial, academic or research laboratory environment,” according to the award letter.

O’Brien will receive this award at the ASME Turbo Expo in June 2012 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

He will also give a lecture titled  “Research, Education, and Coaching in Gas Turbines," at the Copenhagen meeting.

Since 1956, the ASME institute has been an important resource for the gas turbine community, hosting this annual conference and exposition, and providing professional development tools to nurture knowledge and career growth. 

Additionally, the institute’s 18 technical committees offer opportunities for program expansion and technical exchange, addressing all capacities of gas turbines expertise.

O’Brien is the director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Turbomachinery and Propulsion Research (CTPR), comprised of 10 core faculty members and approximately 40 graduate students, which are distributed in several engineering departments. The center has provided research and educational service to industry and government agencies for over 30 years.

“Walter O’Brien’s sustained contributions to gas turbine engine technology advancement through his forward-looking research have brought considerable recognition to Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, which has enhanced our reputation significantly. The International Gas Turbine Institute is the world’s foremost group in the area of gas turbines and related equipment, and receiving this award is a singular honor for Dr. O’Brien.

“We are all very proud of Walter, and appreciate the many contributions that he has made to Virginia Tech and the strong leadership that he has provided both to the department and to the CTPR,” said Kenneth Ball, the L.S. Randolph Professor and mechanical engineering department head at Virginia Tech.

In the 1970’s, O’Brien and his colleague, professor Hal Moses were among the first investigators to apply high response transducers on rotor blades in axial flow compressors, a design that contributed valuable insights to dynamic flow behavior in turbine engine compressors. This research laid the groundwork for the center, which was later founded in 1987.

Companies such as Pratt & Whitney, Aerojet, and Rolls-Royce have created long-term partnerships with the facility and donated large sums of money towards the research on missile and space propulsion, gas turbine propulsion systems, and turbomachinery.

Currently, some of the research topics being investigated by the facility members include inlet flow effects on turbine engines in blended-wing body aircraft designs, ion-based active flow control, acoustic effects in turbine engines, combustion stability and adaptive controls, turbine heat transfer, energy harvesting for instrumentation applications, advanced sensors for turbomachinery clearance, pressure and temperature measurements, and rotor dynamics and magnetic bearings.

The acclaimed professor and director has been a part of the of the Virginia Tech community since 1970. He has held the J. Bernard Jones professorship since 1985 and was the mechanical engineering department head from 1993-2004.

O’Brien has received many honors and awards for his activities. Recently, with colleagues M. V. Perry, J. Farina, S. LePera, and U. Vandsburger, he received a best paper award for, “Instrumentation, Modeling, and Testing of a Gas Turbine Engine Using Lean-Premixed Hydrogen Combustion,” presented at the 2009 AIAA/ASME Joint Propulsion Conference.


Lindsey A. Haugh
(540) 231-2476