The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $7 million in project funding to accelerate the introduction of affordable, scalable, and sustainable high-performance fuels for use in high-efficiency, low-emission engines as part of the Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines (Co-Optima) initiative. (Earlier post.)
Co-optimized fuels and engines offer the opportunity to build on decades of advancements in both fuels and engines. Groundbreaking research in the last 10 years has identified combustion engine strategies that—especially if optimized to run on new fuels—would offer significantly higher efficiency and produce fewer engine-out pollutants than current engines. The new funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001461) will advance the long-term objective of the Co-Optima initiative to accelerate widespread deployment of significantly improved fuels and vehicles (from passenger to light truck to heavy-duty commercial vehicles) by 2030.
This first-of-its-kind initiative is a collaboration between DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) and brings together DOE national laboratories and industry stakeholders simultaneously to conduct tandem fuel and engine research, development, and deployment assessments.
In 2016, BETO and VTO jointly funded a consortium of nine DOE national laboratories to begin a multi-year project in support of the Co-Optima initiative. Projects selected under this funding opportunity will complement the ongoing DOE national laboratory project and support the broader Co-Optima initiative. Recipients selected for funding are expected to interface with the national laboratory consortium throughout the performance of their projects.
Eligibility for this funding opportunity is restricted to US Institutions of Higher Education and nonprofit research institutions that operate as a division under the US Institutions of Higher Education. This restricted eligibility applies to both prime recipients and sub-recipients.
The DOE National Laboratory Project includes two parallel research thrusts:
Thrust I – Improvement of near-term conventional SI engine efficiency. High-research octane number (RON) fuels are known to enable more efficient, higher-performance SI operation via engine downsizing and boosting. Many biofuel blending components exhibit high RON and can be introduced into the market in the near- to medium-term for engines optimized to operate on those fuels. Fuel properties beyond RON, such as heat of vaporization, burn rate, sensitivity, volatility, and energy density will also be characterized and the complexity of their interactions mapped to evaluate the full value opportunity.
Thrust II – Enable full operability ACI engines. Thrust II will provide the science and technology underpinnings needed for industry to develop advanced, highly efficient, clean-burning ACI engines and the fuels that enable them. This engine platform, which includes kinetically controlled and low-temperature combustion approaches, offers the promise of significantly greater thermal efficiencies with lower criteria-pollutant emissions, and presents attractive options for both light- and heavy-duty vehicles. Fuel research will focus on low-GHG advanced biofuel/petroleum blends. In addition, already-efficient conventional compression ignition (CI) engines can realize fuel economy increases enabled by improved, low GHG-intensity fuels.
The research cycle for each thrust includes identifying fuel candidates, understanding their characteristics and combustion performance, and determining market-transformation requirements—such as cost, GHG reduction, feedstock requirements, scalability, and infrastructure compatibility—while actively engaging with stakeholders and future collaborators.
Individual Co-Optima research teams at the DOE National Laboratories are focusing on:
Advanced Engine Development – Quantifying the interactions between fuel properties, engine design, and operating strategies to enable high- efficiency engine operation.
Fuel Properties – Bridging fuel composition and fuel performance metrics and identifying low-GHG biofuel blendstocks that can provide these properties when combined with petroleum-derived blendstocks.
Low Greenhouse Gas Fuels – Identifying molecules, mixtures and viable production pathways that enable biofuels of the future.
Simulation Toolkit – Integrating multi-scale engine and vehicle simulation capabilities.
Analysis of Sustainability, Scale, Economics, Risk, and Trade (ASSERT) – Evaluating co-optimized fuel and vehicle technologies from an environmental and economic perspective, considering the entire supply chain.
Market Transformation – Working with stakeholders to promote a market-driven environment by identifying and mitigating potential barriers.
DOE seeks proposals that address one or more of the following sub-topics:
Fuel characterization and fuel property prediction. DOE is looking for proposals related to characterizing biomass-based, low-greenhouse-gas fuels and blends that could be utilized in advanced technology engines. Proposed approaches should focus on characterization and modeling that predicts important biofuel combustion, auto-ignition and physical properties of mixtures of identified compounds at engine-relevant conditions, in particular those properties that blend non-linearly.
Properties of interest include, but are not limited to: prediction of autoignition metrics such as octane number and sensitivity; combustion properties such as flame speed and soot formation tendency; fuel physical properties such as volatility and viscosity; and properties related to spray vaporization and droplet formation.
Of particular interest are approaches relevant to both petroleum-derived and bio-derived molecules and mixtures. Proposed approaches should have widespread applicability in research and production environments, and not overlap with ongoing efforts within the national lab project. Successful projects will establish a new or improved approach for simulating and/or predicting fuel properties.
Kinetic measurement and mechanism development. DOE seeks proposals for kinetic measurements and kinetic mechanism development in support of Co-Optima. Measurements from shock tubes, flames, jet stirred reactors, flow reactors, constant volume combustion vessels, and rapid compression machines would increase the amount of data that kinetic mechanisms are based on, ultimately leading to increased confidence in the kinetic mechanisms.
Advances in kinetic mechanism development and accuracy, including reaction rate calculations, thermodynamic calculations, and reaction pathways for multi-component blend performance would be beneficial. DOE also seeks research that accelerates the development and simulation times, which includes research that leads to automation in kinetic mechanism creation for new fuel compounds and mixtures, and automatic mechanism reduction.
Successful projects will provide modeling and validation data to advance the state of technology of kinetic measurement and mechanism development for identified fuel compounds and mixtures.
Emissions and environmental impact analysis. DOE seeks proposals that accelerate understanding of the multimedia environmental impact from fuel production, storage and combustion of fuels for advanced technology engines. Examination of environmental impacts should include emissions of pollutants to air and water and the linking of these emissions to human health effects, specifically, in the area of biodegradation and anaerobic degradation. Health and environmental effects associated with exposure to candidate blendstocks in neat or blended format are also of interest.
Impact of fuel chemistry and fuel properties on particulate emissions. DOE seeks proposals that will develop new methodologies to quantify impacts of fuel properties such as heat of vaporization (HoV); droplet surface tension; and fuel chemical structure on particulate emissions from advanced compression ignition technology engines.
Previous studies have investigated the sooting potential of various fuel components by adding them individually to a blendstock and measuring the impact on particulate emissions. This approach does not allow for component-to-component interactions to be determined; for example, HoV does not strongly impact particulates when alcohols are blended with a largely alkylate base fuel, but it can be critical when the base fuel has a large fraction of high-boiling point aromatics. Oxygenates can also exhibit low-energy barrier pathways to form particles that are not available to hydrocarbons, and intermediates in these reaction mechanisms may interact with species formed from hydrocarbons. Careful studies aimed at clarifying these interactions are needed.
Proposals linking metrics used in the engine community to metrics used in the broader combustion community (e.g., TSI/YSI – Threshold/Yield Sooting Index) are also encouraged.
Other examples of potential methodologies and data of interest to DOE include, but are not limited to: in situ sampling and characterization of particle morphology; particle composition or susceptibility to oxidation and stability during exhaust particulate filter regeneration; comparative data on type, mass and number of particles created by the combustion of similar biofuels (e.g., two or more different bio-derived hydrocarbon blendstocks compared to each other and to a conventional fuel in the same boiling range); and, novel methods of interrogating particulate filters during regeneration (e.g. identifying changes in filtration during regeneration, modifying regeneration strategies to take advantage of unique properties of ACI particles, and/or improving the efficiency of regeneration strategies for particulate filters loaded with ACI particles.)
Successful projects will provide new or improved methodologies to quantify the impacts of fuel properties on engine particle emissions.
Small-volume, high-throughput fuel testing. DOE seeks proposals that can enable small volume (<20 μl), high throughput (>100 tests/device/month) measurements of novel fuels of interest to the Co-Optima project team at the national labs.
The specific measurements must be used to help quantify the performance of the fuel in at least one, and preferably both, of the Co-Optima thrust areas. Determining the fuel performance requires a link to be made between the small volume measurements and the combustion behavior at engine relevant conditions (i.e., pressures 25-100 bar, and temperatures 700- 1000 K). The primary combustion related properties are the auto-ignition properties of the fuel.
Other combustion properties of interest for the small volume fuel testing are equivalent RON and Motor Octane Number (MON), flame speed, heat of vaporization and sooting propensity at engine relevant conditions. Also of interest is the development of new metrics that can capture the fuel performance needs of new advanced compression ignition engines where low temperature combustion, pressure sensitivity, equivalence ratio sensitivity, and dilution tolerance are critical.
Successful projects will yield a prototype device to improve small-volume, bench-top collection of thermo-physical fuels data that can streamline fuel candidate screening by reducing the need for more extensive and costlier engine testing. The new device and/or procedure(s) should yield greater measurement accuracy, lower cost and/or higher throughput than the Ignition Quality Tester (IQT) and Rapid Compression Machine (RCM). Any new metric or measurement process proposed must be validated against experimental data and related to existing ASTM or SAE standard fuel performance metrics. This sub-topic applies to both research thrusts.
- Additional barriers. DOE seeks additional related high impact R&D and analysis that supports the goals of the Co-Optima initiative by addressing one or more of the following barriers associated with concurrent deployment of biofuels and advanced technology engines, without overlapping the current DOE National Laboratory Project effort. Thes include: public perception and consumer acceptance; low cost; low GHG impacts; high volume; and infrastructure compatibility.
DOE anticipates making approximately up to 12 awards under this FOA; individual awards may vary between $300,000 and $3 million.