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Heavy-Duty Emissions Research Honored with SAE Colwell Award

April 11, 2018

On April 10, authors from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Cummins Inc. received the Arch T. Colwell Merit Award during the 2018 annual Society of Automotive engineers (SAE) World Congress Awards and Recognition Ceremony in Detroit. The Colwell award recognizes the authors of papers of outstanding technical or professional merit that are presented at SAE meetings.

The paper, "Evaluation of Fuel-Borne Sodium Effects on a DOC-DPF-SCR Heavy-Duty Engine Emission Control System: Simulation of Full-Useful Life," examines the effects of trace contaminants in biodiesel on diesel emissions control devices. The authors include Petr Sindler, Aaron Williams, Adam Ragatz, and Robert L. McCormick for NREL, as well as lead authors for Oak Ridge National Laboratory Michael Lance, Andrew Wereszczak, and Todd J. Toops, and contributing authors for Cummins Inc. Richard Ancimer, Hongmei An, Junhui Li, and Leigh Rogoski.

This research moves renewable fuels on the path to being fully compatible with current engine systems. Determining how trace contaminants in biodiesel impact emissions control devices allows researchers to move toward optimizing emissions control performance for an industry that has been growing steadily for more than a decade.

"Industry had expressed concerns about the potential of elements in pure biodiesel to degrade diesel emission control systems," Sindler said. "This study was aimed at pinpointing how sodium or potassium and calcium or magnesium could potentially reduce the functionality of these emissions control devices."

At NREL's Renewable Fuels and Lubricants (ReFUEL) Laboratory, the research team conducted accelerated aging of an emissions control system by simulating more than a thousand hours of engine use with a specially formulated blend of biodiesel.

"This collaboration combined NREL's one-of-a-kind research facility with Cummins engines and emissions control systems, brought together by Oak Ridge's expertise in analysis," McCormick said. "Joining forces ensures we get the best results that are applicable to real-world applications."

The study showed that sodium had the most significant impact on the emissions control system by increasing ash accumulation in the diesel particulate filter. Identifying what aspect of biodiesel has the potential to lower the effectiveness of emissions control systems allowed the team to recommend that future specifications target diesel particulate filter cleaning strategies and required frequency.

SAE recognized the team's findings as a significant contribution to the existing knowledge of mobility engineering, adding their work to the dozens of papers honored by the Arch T. Colwell Merit Award since it was established in 1965.

Learn more about NREL's fuel and combustion science research.