NSF and DOE form Partnership on Advanced Combustion Engines; goal 25-40% better LDV fuel economy and 55% BTE in heavy-duty engines; $12M in awards for FY 2012-2014
The Directorate for Engineering at the National Science Foundation (NSF) has established a partnership with the Vehicle Technologies Program (VTP) of the US Department of Energy (DOE) to address critical fundamental and applied research challenges associated with advanced combustion engine technologies. The goal of the partnership is to leverage the complementary missions of deployment and commercialization (DOE) and fundamental research and education (NSF) to address the efficiency of the internal combustion engine (ICE).
The high-level performance goals of the Partnership are a 25-40% improvement in fuel economy in a light-duty vehicle (LDV) and achieving 55% brake thermal efficiency (BTE) in heavy-duty engine systems. The Directorate for Engineering is now seeking proposals (NSF 12-559) for awards totalling up to $12 million for FY 2012, 2013, and 2014, pending availability of funds.
Liquid fuels have dominated transportation systems for over a century and will continue to do so for decades to come. Within the US alone, almost 12 million barrels of oil are consumed per day in ground transportation vehicles that are powered by the internal combustion engine (ICE). By 2035, this number is expected to grow to more than 17 million barrels per day. At the present time, sustainable energy technologies (e.g., wind, solar, electric) are not yet at the stage where they can significantly impact petroleum use. While such sustainable concepts are being developed, R&D investments that seek to improve the efficiency of the ICE stand to have a near-term impact on reducing oil consumption and the emissions they generate. The potential is significant. For example, the fuel economy of light-duty vehicles could potentially be improved by 75 percent and heavy-duty vehicles by 30 percent with concepts that are just beginning to be better understood.
Because the NSF and DOE have long invested in research and development in elements related to advanced combustion engines, these two agencies have developed a jointly funded partnership to address a problem of national importance that impacts our reliance on foreign sources of oil, while also addressing the environmental impact of performance. Specifically, proposals are solicited that are directly relevant to ICE technologies as outlined in this solicitation. The awards associated with this Solicitation will potentially enable efficiency gains in the ICE by improving the sub-processes that are addressed. Such an effort comes at a critical time in the Nation’s history as our energy security and economic well-being demands that oil consumption be reduced. This DOE and NSF partnership is directed to that end. It seeks to exploit the complementary missions of (i) research and development for NSF, and (ii) deployment and commercialization for DOE to develop the critical understanding technologies associated with ICE performance.—Program solicitation
The partnership will be managed by the Advanced Combustion Engines R&D Sub-Program within the DOE’s VTP, and the Combustion, Fire and Plasma Systems Program; the Thermal Transport Processes Program; and the Catalysis and Biocatalysis Programs within the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET) Division of the Directorate for Engineering at NSF. Each of these programs already includes strong components of the elements of advanced combustion engine technologies within the portfolio of projects they support.
The NSF/DOE Partnership in Advanced Combustion Engines is soliciting transformative ideas in several targeted areas with the potential to enable an increase in the efficiency of internal combustion engines while minimizing the energy penalty of meeting emissions regulations. This goal will be accomplished by directed research and development in advanced engine combustion regimes and emission control strategies, coupled with advanced fuel formulations including both non-petroleum-based and petroleum-based fuels.
Proposals are encouraged that advance transformative ideas to develop the enabling understanding for improving the efficiency of the ICE and the emissions they generate. This goal will be facilitated by fundamental research to establish the basis for new concepts, design elements and tools performed through university/industry/national laboratory partnerships. The over-arching theme is the reduction of the design cycle for testing, manufacturing and implementation of new ideas, which is currently expensive and time-consuming.
Research should focus on the fundamental thermal/fluid/chemical processes of the problem to be investigated rather than on a development and testing effort. It is also expected that a connection will be made between the understanding of the problem to be studied and the associated ICE efficiency gains, according to the NSF.
The ICE is a complex system whose operation is controlled by a wide range of processes. These include sprays that deliver the fuel to the combustion chamber and which set the initial conditions for combustion, stochastic in-cylinder dynamics for conversion of chemical energy to work that include random turbulent mixing, fuel evaporation and combustion, multi-phase fuel-air mixing, wall impingement, combustion chemistry, heat transfer and fluid interactions, and exhaust treatment (e.g., catalytic) technologies to reduce toxic gas and particulate emissions. All of these aspects require an improved understanding to realize significant efficiency gains of the ICE.
Advanced combustion regimes for the ICE have the potential to make a near-term impact on oil consumption. Development of low temperature combustion (LTC), learn-burn gasoline combustion and development of alternative (e.g., bio-derived) fuels have the potential to dramatically increase fuel economy. LTC is based on developing dilute mixtures that result in peak combustion temperatures below about 1900K in order to reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen. With lower temperatures heat losses are reduced which enable the extraction of more energy in the expansion stroke and thereby a higher net work out and higher fuel efficiency. Additional benefits of reduced combustion temperatures include lower particulate and toxic gas emissions which are important considerations in global climate change. Optimizing evaporation, mixing, kinetics, and heat transfer to achieve high efficiencies and low emissions is the desired goal. LTC is incorporated in such processes as homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI), premixed charge compression ignition (PCCI) or a number of other variants that employ lean premixed and partially premixed combustion.—Program solicitation
Key areas that must be better understood to enable LTC regimes to realize their full potential include, but are not limited to, the following:
stochastic and deterministic in-cylinder processes that influence the stability of LTC methodologies to increase power density in LTC or lean-burn operation;
validated, predictive models of combustion control, pollutant formation and ignition chemistry at engine-relevant pressures and temperatures;
ignition characteristics of lean mixtures of various fuels;
liquid fuel properties and their combustion characteristics, including bio (renewable) fuels and surrogates near wall heat transfer and unsteady reciprocating effects on boundary layer behavior;
droplet impingement and surface heat transfer mechanisms;
spray/droplet evaporation and combustion of bio (renewable) and surrogate fuels;
atomizer design and spray type, effects of swirl, and combustion chamber geometry; and
high temperature, low heat-loss materials for engine application.
Emission control devices must be designed to preserve any efficiency gains from in-cylinder processes; emission control may also have the potential to improve performance by reducing emissions to near-zero levels. Catalysts, in particular, have been effective for their impact on reducing NOx, PM, non-methane organic gases (NMOG) or hydrocarbons (HC), and carbon monoxide (CO). Included are three-way catalysts, oxidation catalysts, and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) processes, lean NOx trap or NOx adsorber catalysts, and particulate filters. Relevant topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
new catalysts and their performance—particularly those catalyst designs that will lower the light-off temperatures (i.e., the temperature at which 90% effectiveness is achieved) to less than 150 °C;
new concepts for SCR, lean NOx trap or NOx adsorber catalysts, particulate filters and regeneration technologies;
understanding and mitigating the negative effects of sulfur and other contaminants on catalyst durability, especially at low temperatures determination of pre-catalytic converter emissions as a function of engine combustion modes and operating parameters, and evaluation of anticipated reference catalyst performance with these input emissions;
understanding aging mechanisms in lean NOx traps and new models to predict catalyst performance; and
enabling cost-effective and fuel-efficient thermal management of catalyst systems including active control.
The NSF directorate is seeking proposals involving collaborations between a lead academic PI and with industry, and/or other academic and/or national laboratory collaborators that provide complementary experimental/modeling/facility capabilities.
The Directorate for Engineering estimates 5 to 20 awards, each of up to 3-years duration. Each project team may receive support up to between $200,000 and $800,000 per year for up to three years on a continuing basis, pending availability of funds and research progress made.
Letters of intent are due by 18 June; full proposals are due by 8 August.
NSF evaluates proposals are evaluated through use of the two National Science Board (NSB)-approved merit review criteria: intellectual merit and the broader impacts of the proposed effort.