Low temperature combustion could double diesel efficiencies, but manufacturing problems remain

February 09 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Transportation   Year: Beyond   Rating: 7 Hot

ORNLCombustionI see efforts to improve combustion engines as trying to 'build a better buggy whip' in an era of 'diminishing returns' on mechanical heat engine innovations.

The problem is not their efficiencies, rather it is the manufacturing costs and complexities of building mechanical engine vehicles.

The world economy would be better off to move beyond combustion conversion towards more efficient, non-mechanical, and modular electrochemical conversion devices like fuel cells. (This doesn't require pure hydrogen, since you can still use hydrocarbon fuels.)

But I admit that diesel engines are not going away anytime soon, so efforts to improve efficiency for industrial applications could move us further down the road.  

Now scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have created the first three-dimensional simulation that fully resolves flame features, such as chemical composition, temperature profile and flow characteristics in diesel engines.  Their efforts could lead to new lower temperature engine designs that are more efficent.

3D Models / 120 Terabytes of Data Reveals Combustion Process Unfolding

The supercomputer driven simulation generated 120 terabytes (trillion bytes) of data about flames similar to those occurring during ignition and stabilization of diesel-engine jets. The data equaled more than five times the printed contents of the U.S. Library of Congress.

"If low-temperature compression ignition systems employing dilute fuel mixtures make their way into next-generation autos, fuel efficiency could increase by as much as 25 to 50 percent," acccording to Jacqueline Chen. 'The new technology would also make it possible to meet future low-emission vehicle standards with almost undetectable emissions of nitrogen oxide, a major contributor to smog.'


ORNL Press Release


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Comment Thread (2 Responses)

  1. Ahh the power of 3d models and quantification/topsight. It’ll be interesting to watch as such models open an increasing # of paths to greater efficiency in all sort of directions for all sorts of structures (energy related, mechanics, bio, etc). Clearly we’ll need to get much better at choosing which problems to spend resources on, but it’ll be easier with better simulations that reveal the margins for change and potential profit.

    Posted by: Alvis Brigis   February 10, 2009
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