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US DOE announces up to US$7 million for Co-Optima initiative

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected eight universities to receive up to US$7 million under the Co-Optimisation of Fuels and Engines (Co-Optima) initiative—a collaboration of DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office and Vehicle Technologies Office to maximise energy savings and on-road vehicle performance, while dramatically reducing transportation-related petroleum consumption and harmful emissions.

As part of the Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines initiative, researchers are exploring synergies among new bio-based fuels, engines, powertrains, and fuelling infrastructure (image courtesy Loren Stacks, Sandia National Laboratories).

As part of the Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines initiative, researchers are exploring synergies among new bio-based fuels, engines, powertrains, and fuelling infrastructure (image courtesy Loren Stacks, Sandia National Laboratories).

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that it has selected eight universities to receive up to US$7 million under the Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines (Co-Optima) initiative—a collaboration of DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and Vehicle Technologies Office to maximise energy savings and on-road vehicle performance, while dramatically reducing transportation-related petroleum consumption and harmful emissions.

The eight projects are meant to accelerate the introduction of affordable, scalable, and sustainable high-performance fuels for use in high-efficiency, low-emission engines.

The following eight universities are receiving funding:

  • Cornell University (Ithaca, New York): in partnership with the University of California, San Diego, will examine the combustion characteristics of several diesel/biofuel blends. This will provide the information needed to understand how these blends burn compared to traditional petroleum-based fuels to help design cleaner, more efficient combustion engines.
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan): will develop an engine combustion model using software that is capable of simulating a range of different parameters that could occur in a combustion chamber, such as combustion duration, flame speed, and pressure development. The system will be designed to maximise ease of use, reliability and accuracy, as well as to reduce the expense of a full engine cycle simulation by 80 percent relative to the current state of the art. The data gained from the model can help maximise alternative fuel performance and will be used to guide engine manufacturers.
  • University of Michigan-Dearborn (Dearborn, Michigan): with partner Oakland University, will use a miniature ignition screening rapid compression machine—an experimental apparatus used to study ignition properties—to gain a better understanding of the ignition and combustion characteristics (e.g., ignition delay) of alternative fuels. This novel method streamlines the evaluation of auto-ignition performance without the need for more extensive and costly engine testing.
  • University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Alabama): will examine the combustion properties of biofuels and blends using advanced diagnostic techniques under realistic advanced compression ignition (ACI) engine conditions. ACI engines can deliver both high efficiencies and low emissions. The goal is to create a model to predict combustion properties of various fuel blends to help optimise its use in ACI engines.
  • Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, Louisiana): along with partners Texas A&M and University of Connecticut, will develop a method that efficiently characterises alternative fuel candidates along with associated models and metrics for predicted engine performance.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts): in partnership with University of Central Florida, will develop detailed kinetic models for several biofuels using an advanced computational approach. The project will construct computer models to predict the combustion chemistry of proposed biofuels, which can then be used to determine which of the proposed fuels will have high performance in advanced engines.
  • Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut): along with the Pennsylvania State University, will measure sooting tendencies of various biofuels and develop emission indices relevant to real engines. This will enable the selection of biomass-derived fuels that minimise soot emissions in next generation engines.
  • University of Central Florida (Orlando, Florida): The University of Central Florida will generate fuel characterisation data by measuring and evaluating important performance metrics like fuel spray atomisation, flame topology, volatility, viscosity, soot/coking, and compatibility for prioritised fuels. The research will characterise and predict combustion properties of biomass‐based, low-emission fuels and blends in engine‐relevant conditions.

Co-Optima has two main targets: to bring new engines and fuels to market within a decade and to demonstrate new combustion technologies by 2030 with the potential for a 30 percent reduction in US petroleum consumption. Co-Optima initiative leverages the expertise of the Vehicle and Bioenergy technologies offices to pursue innovative research partnerships with 10 national laboratories and the DOE has awarded US$32 million of initial funding to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Argonne, Idaho, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, and Sandia national laboratories.

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