Purr-fect partnership

Jaguar aims to improve the performance and fuel economy of its engines, while reducing emission levels, in a long-term project to minimise variations in the combustion process.

The Jaguar-led, EPSRC-funded four-year research project, which also includes Shell Global Solutions, University College London and Leeds, Loughborough and Oxford universities, will use laser-imaging technologies to study the combustion process of direct injection spark ignition engines.

Researchers will investigate the different aspects of the combustion process (including fuel spray,air-fuel mixture preparation, diagnostics, and the fundamentals of ignition and flame growth) that can lead to variations in combustion.

Minimising these variations will allow car makers to calibrate the engine to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as well as other pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, while refining its performance and improving fuel economy, said Dr. Paul Williams of the internal combustion engine research group at UCL.

‘The group of universities will be using advanced technologies to look at the conditions inside the cylinder, and the ultimate goal is to achieve refined torque at the lowest possible CO2 emissions, as well as meeting other pollution regulations.’

Any changes made to the design of engines as a result of the project are likely to be subtle, he said. ‘We are not looking to totally redesign the engine, but are taking an advanced design and investigating its sensitivity to changes in areas such as airflow and fuel mixture preparation, which will guide the engine production process.’

As engines can only really be said to perform at the level of their model’s lowest common denominator, reducing combustion variations will help Jaguar toproduce better engines, said Steve Richardson, Jaguar’s advanced powertrain engineering manager.

The research team will hold its first meeting at Jaguar at the beginning of next month. The project – backed by a £1.13m grant from the EPSRC and a further £320,000 from Jaguar and Shell – is likely to be the first stage of a 10-year process, said Richardson.

‘We think this will be stage one of a multi-stage project. This will be to build an understanding of where the variability comes from, so [ultimately] when we design an engine we will be able to run some kind of computer analysis.

‘In this way, before we produce the engine we can measure what level of variation we might expect from it, and how we can reduce it. We are probably 10 years from having a model with that capability,’ he said.

Jaguar is providing the universities with three identical single-cycle research engines with viewing access, which have been designed and built in the US by Ford. These will allow researchers to use laser imaging systems to accurately measure the air and fuel flow through the engine, and to observe the combustion process.

‘The engines have a quartz transparent cylinder, which allows us to observe what is happening from the point of view of the air, fuel and combustion,’ said Richardson.

‘This type of engine is used in normal engine development to understand some of the physical processes that are going on.

‘But this will be the first time that three identical engines will be worked on simultaneously by three different universities in this country.’

Using identical engines will enable researchers to share findings across the different universities without having to take into account the impact on the results of slight differences in specification.

According to Richardson, Shell became involved in the project as it felt the fuel type could also have an effect on the level of variability within the combustion process. The company is providing the project with fuel and its expertise in the chemical behaviour of fuels, he said.

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