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NREL Bridges Fuels and Engines R&D to Maximize Vehicle Efficiency and Performance

New State-of-the-Art Equipment Expands Research Capabilities

November 7, 2017

See the full animation to learn more about NREL's fuels and engines research. Text version.

$1.7 trillion—that's how much U.S. consumers and businesses could potentially save in fuel costs with more efficient vehicles. NREL bridges fuels and engines research to maximize efficiency and performance, with recent additions to the lab's state-of-the-art equipment providing expanded capabilities.

NREL's fuels and engines research covers the full spectrum of innovation—from fuel chemistry, conversion, and combustion to the evaluation of advanced fuels in actual engines and vehicles. NREL's national-caliber scientists and engineers provide the expertise needed to make breakthrough discoveries.

In the Renewable Fuels and Lubricants (ReFUEL) Laboratory, a new emissions bench enables researchers to more efficiently evaluate spark ignition and compression ignition engines, and a new engine controller is adding flexibility to multi-cylinder engine research. A new single-cylinder engine for advanced compression ignition fuels research will be installed and commissioned in the near future.

ReFUEL Laboratory activities focus on improving the efficiency of conventional diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles and overcoming barriers to the increased use of diverse fuels such as biodiesel from domestic resources. In addition to the new equipment, ReFUEL features a chassis dynamometer for vehicle performance and emissions research, two engine dynamometer test cells for advanced fuels research, and precise emissions analysis equipment. It also can be used to evaluate emissions and vehicle performance at high altitude, or simulate results found at lower altitudes.

At NREL's Fuel Combustion Laboratory, the new Advanced Fuel Ignition Delay Analyzer is making it possible to study ignition delay temperature sweeps at engine-relevant pressures for complex gas surrogate blends. The device's high-pressure injection system prevents vaporization prior to injection, making it possible to study ignition kinetics for a wider range of fuels and fuel components.

Detailed studies of fuel properties are performed at NREL's Fuel Combustion Laboratory, characterizing fuels at the molecular level. Such information can be used to understand and predict a fuel's effect on engine performance and emissions. This helps develop fuels that enable more efficient engine designs, using both today's technology and future advanced combustion concepts.

NREL's fuels and engines R&D spans multiple research areas, with collaboration across the lab's vehicles and bioenergy research teams. NREL is also leading eight other national laboratories on the Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines (Co-Optima) initiative, exploring simultaneous improvements to fuels and engines.

These integrated bodies of work, coupled with NREL's unique facilities and capabilities, are helping to bring high-performance fuels and advanced engine systems to market sooner—boosting the nation's economy and energy security.

Learn more about NREL's sustainable transportation research.