A team of researchers from Colorado State University’s Energy Institute has received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to look at making natural gas engines as efficient as diesel engines in the same class. Specifically, the researchers will develop medium- and heavy-duty, on-road natural gas engines that are as efficient as traditional diesel engines often used in long-haul 18-wheeler trucks, garbage trucks and delivery trucks.
The research could result in cost savings and improve air quality. The team has joined together with commercial partners Cummins Inc. and Woodward, Inc. to tackle this engine technology challenge. “We are excited to get to work alongside respected industry partners like Woodward and Cummins to advance natural gas engine technology,” said Associate Professor Daniel Olsen.
Cummins and Woodward will provide the team with practical hardware for testing and the capability to commercialize technology breakthroughs. Cummins is building a single-cylinder, 2.5-liter natural gas engine to be used as a key research tool for the project. Woodward is contributing combustion, ignition, fuel delivery technology and advanced engine controls.
“As we look to provide solutions for commercial vehicles in a carbon-constrained world, natural gas will be an increasingly important option, and discovering breakthroughs in spark-ignited natural gas engine thermal efficiency will complement the technologies on the market today,” said Robin Bremmer, director of Advanced Alternative Fuels & Ignition Systems at Cummins Inc.
The Energy Institute team is proposing to break down technological barriers, such as the knock and misfire limits, to optimize combustion and improve natural gas engine efficiency. The team plans to do this using a three-pronged approach. First, they will use a laser spark-ignited rapid compression machine (RCM), an experimental device that simulates a single compression stroke of an internal combustion engine, to study the chemical kinetics and combustion of natural gas.
Second, they will use a Cooperative Fuel Research (CFR) engine to study how gas composition impacts end gas auto-ignition, the phenomenon that leads to engine knock. Third, using lessons learned from the RCM and CFR engine studies, the team will develop engine models to direct the design of the combustion-related components in a specially built Cummins engine for final testing and system optimization.
Source: Colorado State University