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Imagine a jet engine in your laptop computer that ran for weeks without being recharged. Imagine producing energy on a small scale." That was how Dr Amit Mehra described his doctoral research last year while winning first place at the Merrill Lynch Innovation Grants Competition that recognises original academic ideas likely to succeed in the marketplace. Mehra developed a working model of a two-centimetre-sized jet engine combustion chamber that could eventually be used to convert chemical energy of fuel into electricity for portable electronic devices. "The portable power unleashed by this conversion," Mehra says, "could be used in numerous industrial and consumer products."
Mehra, who graduated with undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Caltech in California and MIT, majoring in aeronautics and astronautics, worked with a team of top MIT engineers. This team hopes to one day take large engines such as the ones used in aircraft and try to miniaturise them to fit in one’s palm. The long-term picture is to make a jet engine-powered battery that would create more energy than regular batteries used in portable electronic devices.
Currently chief engineer of turbine engine research at D-Star Engineering, an aerospace research and development company in Washington, DC, Mehra has published several papers on micro-combustion, fluid dynamics and silicon fabrication. His present focus is on developing similar miniature devices for high-energy release using chemical fuels.
When he is not busy researching jet engines, Mehra, 29, flies a single-engine Piper Tomahawk for fun. This eligible bachelor also enjoys his golf and boasts a high handicap. His ex-merchant navy father Jeet Mehra and his mother Ashi live in Delhi.