The mission of the Engine Combustion Research group is to develop the science-based understanding needed by industry to design the next generation of advanced internal-combustion engines that use both conventional and alternative fuels. We develop a detailed, pre-competitive understanding of the dominant in-cylinder processes, providing guidance to engine designers who can subsequently develop proprietary hardware designs and operating strategies that will support more efficient, cleaner engines.
Our work is motivated by the need to improve combustion engines during the nation’s transition to low-carbon options. Required reductions in CO2 emissions from internal combustion engines must be achieved through concurrent improvements in efficiency and through a sustained increase in the use of renewable, GHG-neutral, or GHG-negative fuels. Additionally, future regulations will require that the criteria pollutant emissions from these vehicles are near zero. The transition to low carbon fuels will present challenges as we seek to adapt engines to new fuels while both improving efficiency and achieving zero-impact emissions.
Target vehicles include passenger cars, SUVs, light-to-medium duty trucks, and heavy-duty transport vehicles. Electrified technologies are applicable to many light-duty passenger car applications, and are expected to play an increasing role in reducing the carbon footprint of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in the coming decades. Accordingly, our research emphasis is shifting towards hard-to-electrify, off-road applications such as agriculture, construction, inland marine, and rail. Diesel engines are currently the dominant power source for such applications, though we anticipate that the use of gaseous low-carbon fuels such as H2, natural gas, and their mixtures will become more prevalent. Both diesel and gaseous-fuel engines are expected to persist where technical limitations preclude complete electrification, in both hybrid and conventionally powered vehicles.
We use experimental hardware appropriate to these applications and apply advanced, laser-based diagnostics and high-fidelity simulations to supply data that accelerate in-depth understanding of the complex physicochemical processes controlling combustion with realistic engine geometries and operating conditions.
Additionally, we help industry to develop advanced engine design tools to enable numerical design and optimization. Advancing the accuracy of industry tools results in both better designs and reduced time to market—a crucial aspect of reducing CO2 emissions in support of U.S. climate goals. To this end, we work closely with both university modeling teams and commercial software suppliers.