NASA funds student’s study of fueling space exploration

By Michelle Fredrickson, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture

Carl-Bunge-mugPULLMAN, Wash. – When mechanical engineering student Carl Bunge was 3 years old, his brother and sister convinced him he was an alien born from an egg his parents found in a field.

“I started thinking, maybe I’m different from these Earthlings around me,” he said. “I guess that started a journey of looking up at the sky.”

Carl Bunge in the Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research lab at WSU.

The Washington State University senior from Monroe, Wash., will continue studying the heavens as recipient of a highly competitive NASA Space Grant Fellowship that will provide $70,000 a year in research support. He will spend summers interning at one of NASA’s space centers.

He is the second WSU student to win the grant. Both Bunge and Ian Richardson, who received the award last year, work in the Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research lab with Jake Leachman, assistant professor in the WSU School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

The lab is working on a more efficient system that NASA may someday use to fuel deep space exploration. Bunge is working on a vortex tube, a device that separates and cools gases without using moving parts. Current systems for cooling and using hydrogen are heavy and complex and require moving parts.

“You’re going to have reliability issues with anything with moving parts,” Bunge explained. “It’s going to break down, and in space that’s really difficult to fix.”


Tina Hilding, WSU Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture communications, 509-335-5095,