Sean O'Byrne

Professor and Cluster Lead, Aerospace

Picture of Sean O'Byrne

Birch Building (35), 2.22




Google Scholar



  • Fluid Physics
  • Hypersonic Propulsion and Hypersonic Aerothermodynamics
  • Nonlinear Optics and Spectroscopy


Prof. O’Byrne’s research interests include measurements of physical properties in chemically reacting and high-speed flows and plasmas. Prof. O’Byrne works mostly in non-intrusive laser spectroscopic methods, but also has an interest in instrumentation systems more generally.

The techniques Prof. O’Byrne developed are deployed to improve understanding of high-speed and nonequilibrium thermodynamic processes in a range of applications, including:

  • Hypersonic flows and shock waves
  • Plasmas
  • arefied flows, including both low-density space applications and microscale flows and
  • Combustion flows

The diagnostic techniques that Prof. O’Byrne have developed include measurements of species concentrations, temperatures, densities and velocities, including both fundamental laboratory-based studies of phenomena like diffusive mixing, and measurements on board high-speed aircraft.


Prof. O’Byrne obtained undergraduate physics and education degrees from the University of New England, and Masters and PhD degrees in physics at the Australian National University. His PhD research was on temperature and velocity distributions in hypersosic wake flows. From 2002 to 2004 he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at NASA Langley Research Center, studying supersonic combustion processes. From 2004 to 2006 he was awarded a Vice Chancellor’s fellowship at the University of New South Wales. He joined the faculty of UNSW Canberra in 2006 and undertook research in laser-based diagnostics until 2023, when he hoined ANU as Professor of Aerospace Engineering. He is a senior member of the Optica and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Aerospace professional societies, an editor for the Shock Waves and Frontiers in Physics journals and is on the International Advisory Committee for the International Symposium on Rarefied Gas Dynamics. Dr O’Byrne has supervised 18 PhD students (10 as primary supervisor) and 1 ME Student.

Activities & Awards

For a list of Prof. O’Byrne’s recent activities and projects, please see this page.

You are on Aboriginal land.

The Australian National University acknowledges, celebrates and pays our respects to the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people of the Canberra region and to all First Nations Australians on whose traditional lands we meet and work, and whose cultures are among the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

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