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ORNL aids diesel parts manufacturers

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's High Temperature Materials Laboratory are helping diesel engine and parts manufacturers develop technologies to meet tough new emissions regulations that go into effect in 2007.

Laboratory researchers are helping companies characterize materials and test components as part of the industry's preparation for the new emissions mandates. The requirements will result in a 90 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide, or NOX, and particulate matter, or soot, released by diesel vehicles, from semi-trucks to cars.

At HTML, commercial users have put to use the center's state-of-the-art instruments that analyze products for durability, resistance to heat and stress, thermal conductivity, mechanical behavior and other properties.

"Environmental Protection Agency regulations are pushing emissions control technology very hard, so that engine and emissions control equipment manufacturers require access to very sophisticated tools to develop this technology. Fortunately, our user facilities are well equipped to help them," said Arvid Pasto, director of the HTML.

Diesel engine-maker Cummins used HTML's x-ray diffraction, raman spectroscopy and electron microscopy capabilities to better understand the properties of materials used in exhaust after-treatment systems. In addition to studying how catalysts can be adversely affected by sulfur and other gaseous exhaust components, Cummins and HTML worked together to characterize the fatigue life of cordierite diesel soot filters, which remove more than 98% of particulate emissions from diesel exhaust. These exhaust after-treatment devices are critical to meeting upcoming emissions requirements.

"Cummins utilizes HTML's world class capabilities in materials characterization as well as the research knowledge the HTML staff has obtained from working on diverse engineering challenges. HTML's efforts are matched by Cummins research and development resources, resulting in environmentally friendly production diesel engines that meet regulatory requirements while achieving state-of-the-art fuel efficiency and decreasing our oil dependence," said Roger England, Catalyst Elements Leader for Cummins, Inc.

In another project for Industrial Ceramic Solutions, based in Knoxville, Tenn., HTML used its scanning electron microscope to analyze material the start-up company was using to make ceramic-fiber diesel particulate exhaust filters. The original material did not function as well as competing products and had a tendency to crack. The tests connected the trouble to the fabrication process, and the company made changes that improved product performance.

"The sophisticated electron microscopy at HTML allowed our small business to literally look inside of the ceramic fiber filter media at thousands of times magnification," said Richard Nixdorf, ICS president and CEO. "This information led ICS to solutions that eliminated micro-cracking and moved our filter-media strength far beyond what the diesel exhaust filter application demanded." ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.

Larisa Brass | EurekAlert!
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