Solar Thermal Energy


Dr. Fletcher J. Miller


Professional Experience
Academic Experiences
Relevant Skills
Honors and Awards
Funded Projects


Founder of the Solar Thermal Applications and Research (STAR) Laboratory at San Diego State.

Dr. Miller has broad interests spanning the thermal sciences and sustainable energy.

Dr. Fletcher J. Miller


1988    Ph.D. - Mechanical Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, Major: Heat Transfer/Thermodynamics; Minors: Fluid Dynamics, Mathematics. Ph.D. Dissertation: An Experimental and Theoretical Study of Heat Transfer in a Gas-Particle Flow Under Direct Radiant Heating.

1985    M.S. - Mechanical Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, Master’s Project: An investigation into the use of a gas-particle suspension as a solar absorption medium.

1982    B.S. - Mechanical Engineering, Columbia University


Assistant Professor, San Diego State University, Department of Mechanical Engineering. 8/07 – Present
Founder of the Solar Thermal Applications and Research (STAR) Laboratory at San Diego State. Responsible for the graduate and undergraduate heat transfer curriculum in the mechanical engineering department. Current grant topics include the small particle solar receiver, spacecraft fire safety, and the effect of Santa Ana winds on wildfires.

Research Professor, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) 1/07 – 8/07

Principal Researcher, National Center for Space Exploration Research (formerly National Center for Microgravity Research) (CWRU employee) 9/97-8/07
Team Lead for Fire Prevention under the Fire Prevention, Detection, and Suppression Program at NASA. The six-person team evaluated and developed material flammability research plans and new screening tests for NASA in support of the planned Lunar and Martian missions.

Concurrently, Miller was a funded investigator on other projects and served as Flight Facility Scientist, Flight Project Scientist, and technical monitor on several projects in the NASA Microgravity Program (see lists later in document). Personal research included conducting normal and microgravity experiments and modeling of the combustion of non-homogeneous stratified mixtures, single solid particle combustion, and gas jet microcombustion (both catalytic and non-catalytic).

Researcher, Case Western Reserve University (title of Sr. Research Associate from 3/91 to 3/95) (resident at GRC in the Microgravity Combustion Branch) 3/91-9/97
Major activity during this period was as Co-Investigator on Spread Across Liquids (SAL), the first microgravity combustion experiment in the world to fly aboard a sounding rocket. The project involved studying flame spread over liquid pools in both normal and microgravity. I was responsible for scientific diagnostics including Particle Image Velocimetry, Rainbow Schlieren Deflectometry, infrared thermography, and data visualization and computer animation of computational results. Principal interface with the engineering team to assure science requirements were met, and to assist with drawing review, and hardware design, development and testing. During this time, he also was a technical monitor on two ground-based grants, and mentored numerous students on the project.

Guest Scientist, Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt (Germany) 1988-1990
Thermal and optical measurements in high-temperature particle-laden flows. Design and testing of a laboratory-scale high-temperature, small-particle, direct absorption solar receiver. Development of a 3-D code for calculating radiative flux and temperature profiles in flowing, oxidizing, participating media. Numerical modeling of carbon particle oxidation under direct radiant heating.

Graduate Research Assistant, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory 1982-1988
Research on advanced high-temperature solar energy projects including gas-particle suspensions, molten salt, fuel and chemical production, and energy storage. Experimental and theoretical light scattering in particle suspensions and aerogel. This additional work was conducted concurrent with Ph.D. research.

Assistant Professor, San Diego State University (graduate courses in Conduction, Convection, and Radiation Heat Transfer; undergraduate heat transfer)

Adjunct Professor, University of Akron (to serve on Ph.D. Dissertation Committee)

Instructor, Dept. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Case Western Reserve University; Advanced Heat Transfer (Masters-level) Spring Semester 1998


Ph.D. - Michael Kulis, Spring 2008, University of Akron. “A Diode Laser Diagnostic for Concentration Measurements in Layered Systems During Flame Spread”

Peter Struk, Nov. 2006, Case Western Reserve University. “Modeling of Catalytic Channels and Monolith Reactors”

Masters  - Marcos Villa-Gonzalez, Rowan University, 2006. Marcos spent 7 months at NASA in Dr. Miller's lab working on the flame spread in non-homogeneous mixtures.

Fred Hovermann, Rowan University, 2004. Fred spent 8 months at NASA in Dr. Miller's lab working full time on the flame spread in non-homogeneous mixtures.

David Pantano, University of Virginia, 1999. David spent 12 months at NASA working full time on single carbon particle oxidation.

Lori DiMauro, Case Western Reserve University, 1998. Lori spent 9 months working full time in Dr. Miller's lab on flame spread over flammable liquids.

Ed White, Case Western Reserve University, 1997. Ed spent 8 months working full time in Dr. Miller's lab on flame spread in non-homogeneous gas mixtures.

In addition to these committees, served in a mentor or advising role for four students from Michigan State University as part collaboration with Prof. Indrek Wichman, and for one student from the University of Virginia as part of a project with Prof. Harsha Chelliah.

Undergrad  Undergraduate student mentor of record for forty-five undergraduate students and one high school student in the last 16 years. These include summer interns that worked full time for 10 to 14 weeks in my laboratory, as well as Case students completing course requirements in either their “Scientific Measurements” course, or their Senior Project. In these instances, was responsible for providing the student grade. Also supervised three full time co-op students.


Significant normal gravity design and research experience with:
  • Michelson interferometry to obtain concentrations in flammable gas-layers
  • High-speed (1000 f/s) video cameras for flame spread and Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV)
  • Liquid-phase PIV systems (currently beginning gas-phase work) - established (with others) innovative image processing methods to improve flow visualization; awarded NASA Tech Brief
  • CO2 laser ignition of single carbon particles
  • Spectroscopic measurements of oxidizing carbon particles to obtain temperature
  • Liquid and gas-phase Rainbow Schlieren Deflectometry (including rainbow filter generation)
  • Established (with others) new rainbow filter types to improve visualization
  • Low-speed flow duct construction and characterization (hot wire anemometry smoke flow visualization, and numerical modeling)
  • Gas-phase flow visualization, both in cold-flow and during flame spread (first application of smoke wire method to flame spread problems)
  • Infrared video cameras for condensed phase temperature measurements
  • Hands-on experience with many laboratory tools and instruments including fine gauge thermocouples, thermistors, data acquisition systems, flow meters, lasers (IR and visible diode, HeNe, pulsed Nd-YAG, CO2), imaging and beam-forming optics, optical hardware, video acquisition boards, fiber optics, fuel flashpoint test apparatus, high-energy arc lamps, electron and optical microscopes, nephelometer, oscilloscopes, radiometers
  • Good working knowledge of major machine tools such as the drill press, shear, mill, etc., and machining techniques and mechanical drawings.

Direct experience with microgravity experiments and designs in

  • 2.2 s Drop Tower
  • Zero Gravity Facility
  • KC-135 and DC-9 Reduced Gravity Aircraft
  • Sounding rockets (6 launches from White Sands Missile Range

Fluent FORTRAN and BASIC programmer, and some knowledge of C. Unix, DOS, and Macintosh literate. Have experience writing and running programs on PCs, Unix workstations, and NASA Supercomputer systems. Conversant with several specialized programs for data visualization and analysis such as Transform, SVP (for time-dependent animations), Thermogram (for infrared analysis), PIV software, flame tracking software, etc. Significant experience with computer animation of 3-D numerical predictions for direct comparison to full-field experimental measurements.

“Radiometry,” a 3-unit college graduate course presented via distance learning by the University of Arizona. Jan. 1999 to May 1999. Taken for credit, awarded an A.

“Digital Image Processing,” a four-day course taught by Kodak August 1998.

“Combustion Science Lecture Series Short Courses”, Fall 1997 – Spring 1998

“Experimental Flow Visualization,” Univ. of Michigan, August 1991.



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