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Engineering a healthier, cleaner future


Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast will be helping to develop the automotive engines of the future, thanks to a new £1 million facility which opens on Friday.

Work in the Engine Test Laboratories will include developing and improving engines for better fuel economy and reducing harmful exhaust emissions which contribute to global warming.

The new facility is part of the University’s world class Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC), which carries out cutting edge research focusing on solving design problems and testing new products in a virtual environment. Powerful computers and the latest imaging and sensing technologies allow researchers to study complex systems using a range of senses, including touch and smell.

Opened last year, the pioneering centre conducts multi-disciplinary research on the computer simulation of complex engineering system, including internal combustion engines.

Engine research at Queen’s has focused on advanced engine modelling, engine development and research into automotive catalysts, with researchers developing strong industrial links and partnerships with major engine and automotive companies around the world.

State-of-the-art equipment in the new labs will also enable researchers to test engines under typical city driving conditions – something they haven’t been able to do before.

Professor Robert Fleck, head of the Internal Combustion Engines Research at Queen’s said: “These top class facilities will enable us to interact with the automotive industry at the highest level. It will allow us to be at the forefront of engine technology in the drive for reduced exhaust emissions and improved fuel economy. They will also help to maintain the reputation of Queen’s as a world class centre for engine research.”

The new research facility will be officially opened by Queen’s graduate Detroit-based Dr Gary Smyth, who is Engineering Director of Advanced Engineering for General Motors Powertrain, a global producer of engines, transmissions, castings and components for GM vehicles, including Vauxhall and Opel. It is responsible for the manufacture of over 43,000 engines and transmissions per day.

A native of Londonderry, Dr Smyth began his career with GM in 1989 as a senior project engineer with GM Advanced Product Engineering in Michigan. He has held numerous positions in the Advanced Powertrain organisation and took up his current post in 1999.

A former student of Foyle and Londonderry College, he studied mechanical engineering at Queen’s where he completed his PhD in 1989. Married with two children, his wife, Dr Susan Smyth (nee McCann) is a fellow graduate of Queen’s and a fellow executive at General Motors.

The new facility received most of its funding under the SPUR programme (Support Programme for University Research). Additional funding was obtained from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industrial sources including Optimum Power Technology (Pittsburgh), Horiba (Japan) and Ricardo Test Automation (UK).

Later in the afternoon Professor Roy Douglas, who is chair of IC Engines Technology and is currently on secondment to GM Motors in Detroit, will present his inaugural lecture entitled “Aftertreatment: A Catalyst for Environmental Progress” in the Ashby building.

Elaine Fitzsimons | alfa
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