Development of a Controlled-Trajectory Rapid Compression and Expansion Machine to Enable Fundamental Research on the Internal Combustion Engine

Principal Investigator(s):

Zongxuan Sun, Professor, CCEFP Dir., Mechanical Engineering


Project summary:

Internal combustion engines contribute to air pollution and global warming. With increasing global demand for cars, there is a need for new technologies to enhance engine efficiency and reduce emissions. To design better engines, it is necessary to understand how different designs affect engine performance, the advantages of various fuel mixtures, and what constitute effective strategies for engine control. This Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) award is developing unique instrumentation to enable fundamental research in fuels, advanced combustion, new engine architectures, and control. This knowledge could lead to new technologies that significantly reduce energy consumption and emissions for transportation, construction, and agriculture. This instrumentation will enhance the shared research infrastructure at the University of Minnesota and promote multi-disciplinary research. In addition, designing and constructing instrumentation is a critical skill, both for academia and industry. This project provides an excellent platform for training both graduate and undergraduate students on the fundamental research issues and the instrumentation development process. The instrumentation uses a high pressure and high speed hydraulic actuation system and unique motion control methodologies to achieve precise and flexible compression and expansion processes. This new design and control approach offers added flexibility in controlling the trajectory of the piston, better repeatability with real-time feedback, and improved throughput without the need to adjust the mechanical system. Unlike conventional rapid compression machines, the instrument can control the trajectory of the piston to track any desired signal for engine performance. This unique capability offers real-time control of the combustion chamber volume, which affects the temperature, pressure, and concentration of different gases. Such functionalities, when combined with gas sampling analysis and optical measurement, will allow researchers to directly access combustion processes in a dynamic and controlled fashion. This can create new experimental conditions and enable real-time measurements that are not possible with conventional rapid compression machines. This in turn could lead to major breakthroughs in fundamental research in this field.

Project details: