Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MIT researchers work toward spark-free, fuel-efficient engines

24.07.2007
In an advance that could help curb global demand for oil, MIT researchers have demonstrated how ordinary spark- ignition automobile engines can, under certain driving conditions, move into a spark-free operating mode that is more fuel-efficient and just as clean.

The mode-switching capability could appear in production models within a few years, improving fuel economy by several miles per gallon in millions of new cars each year. Over time, that change could cut oil demand in the United States alone by a million barrels a day. Currently, the U.S. consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil a day.

The MIT team presented their latest results on July 23 at the Japan Society of Automotive Engineers (JSAE)/Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) 2007 International Fuel and Lubricants Meeting.

Many researchers are studying a new way of operating an internal combustion engine known as “homogeneous charge compression ignition” (HCCI). Switching a spark-ignition (SI) engine to HCCI mode pushes up its fuel efficiency.

In an HCCI engine, fuel and air are mixed together and injected into the cylinder. The piston compresses the mixture until spontaneous combustion occurs. The engine thus combines fuel-and-air premixing (as in an SI engine) with spontaneous ignition (as in a diesel engine). The result is the HCCI's distinctive feature: combustion occurs simultaneously at many locations throughout the combustion chamber.

That behavior has advantages. In both SI and diesel engines, the fuel must burn hot to ensure that the flame spreads rapidly through the combustion chamber before a new “charge” enters. In an HCCI engine, there is no need for a quickly spreading flame because combustion occurs throughout the combustion chamber. As a result, combustion temperatures can be lower, so emissions of nitrogen pollutants are negligible. The fuel is spread in low concentrations throughout the cylinder, so the soot emissions from fuel-rich regions in diesels are not present.

Perhaps most important, the HCCI engine is not locked into having just enough air to burn the available fuel, as is the SI engine. When the fuel coming into an SI engine is reduced to cut power, the incoming air must also be constrained-a major source of wasted energy.

However, it is difficult to control exactly when ignition occurs in an HCCI engine. And if it does not begin when the piston is positioned for the power stroke, the engine will not run right.

“It's like when you push a kid on a swing,” said Professor William H. Green, Jr., of the Department of Chemical Engineering. “You have to push when the swing is all the way back and about to go. If you push at the wrong time, the kid will twist around and not go anywhere. The same thing happens to your engine.”

According to Green, ignition timing in an HCCI engine depends on two
factors: the temperature of the mixture and the detailed chemistry of the fuel. Both are hard to predict and control. So while the HCCI engine performs well under controlled conditions in the laboratory, it is difficult to predict at this time what will happen in the real world.

Green, along with Professor Wai K. Cheng of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and colleagues in MIT's Sloan Automotive Laboratory and MIT's Laboratory for Energy and the Environment have been working to find the answer.

A large part of their research has utilized an engine modified to run in either HCCI or SI operating mode. For the past two years, Morgan Andreae (MIT PhD 2006) and graduate student John Angelos of chemical engineering have been studying the engine's behavior as the inlet temperature and type of fuel are changed.

Not surprisingly, the range of conditions suitable for HCCI operation is far smaller than the range for SI mode. Variations in temperature had a noticeable but not overwhelming effect on when the HCCI mode worked. Fuel composition had a greater impact, but it was not as much of a showstopper as the researchers expected.

Using the results of their engine tests as a guide, the researchers developed an inexpensive technique that should enable a single engine to run in SI mode but switch to HCCI mode whenever possible. A simple temperature sensor determines whether the upcoming cycle should be in SI or HCCI mode (assuming a constant fuel).

To estimate potential fuel savings from the mode-switching scheme, Andreae determined when an SI engine would switch into HCCI mode under simulated urban driving conditions. Over the course of the simulated trip, HCCI mode operates about 40 percent of the time.

The researchers estimate that the increase in fuel efficiency would be a few miles per gallon. “That may not seem like an impressive improvement,” said Green. “But if all the cars in the US today improved that much, it might be worth a million barrels of oil per day-and that's a lot.”

This research was supported by Ford Motor Company and the Ford-MIT Alliance, with additional support from BP.

Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Automotive Engineering:

nachricht 3D scans for the automotive industry
16.01.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Improvement of the operating range and increasing of the reliability of integrated circuits
09.11.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH

All articles from Automotive Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

Im Focus: Hydrogen Bonds Directly Detected for the First Time

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

Media accreditation opens for historic year at European Health Forum Gastein

16.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New approach to revolutionize the production of molecular hydrogen

22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences

Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus

22.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Experts explain origins of topographic relief on Earth, Mars and Titan

22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>