by Michael PadillaSandia team develops optical diagnostic that helps improve fuel economy while reducing emissionsA new optical device at Sandia National Laboratories that helps researchers image pollutants in combusting fuel sprays might lead to clearer skies in the future.An optical setup developed by researchers at Sandia’s Combustion Research Facility and the Technical University of Denmark can now quantify the formation of soot — particulate matter consisting primarily of carbon — as a function of time and space for a variety of combustion processes. Initially, the researchers have focused on the combustion of liquid fuel sprays found in engines, where the extreme pressures and temperatures create an environment that is optically challenging.To meet future particulate matter emissions mandates without sacrificing fuel savings, engine developers need advanced combustion strategies to reduce the formation of soot in spray flames.“The acquired data provides important insights into the fuel spray motion as well as the timing and quantity of soot formed under a wide range of conditions,” said Sandia researcher Scott Skeen. “Engine developers can use this information to validate computer models and design advanced engine combustion strategies that will improve fuel economy for consumers while also lowering tailpipe pollutant emissions.”The work was published in an Applied Optics paper titled, “Diffuse back-illumination setup for high temporally resolved extinction imaging” and was selected as a “Spotlight on Optics” by the Optical Society in July. Authors included Fredrik Westlye and Anders Ivarsson from the Technical University of Denmark and Sandia researchers Keith Penney, Lyle Pickett and Skeen and former Sandia researcher Julien Manin. The work was funded by the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office.Read the Sandia Press Release. Photo: Sandia National Laboratories researchers Scott Skeen, left, and Lyle Pickett, center, and former Sandia researcher Julien Manin discuss a new optical device developed at Sandia that can quantify the formation of soot.