New HCCI Lab Opens at Sandia's Combustion Research Facility
January 5, 2004
A new laboratory that allows researchers to study a promising combustion concept for ultra low-emission, high-efficiency engines recently began operation at the Combustion Research Facility at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif. The new facility and research are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies Program.
The Automotive Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) Engine Laboratory houses a single-cylinder, automotive-scale engine with extensive optical access, meaning researchers can use advanced optical diagnostics to study and characterize combustion processes occurring inside the cylinder. Other features of the engine include an elevated temperature and pressure intake air supply and a 12:1 compression ratio, enabling HCCI operation over a wide range of conditions.
HCCI is an alternative piston-engine combustion process that potentially can rival the high efficiency of diesel engines while keeping NOx and particulate emissions extremely low. An HCCI engine could operate using a variety of fuels. The technique's tremendous potential has caught the attention of automotive and diesel engine manufacturers worldwide. However, researchers must overcome several technical barriers, such as controlling ignition timing, reducing unburned hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions, extending operation to higher loads, and maintaining combustion stability through rapid transients.
Key engine components in the CRF's HCCI lab were either supplied by auto industry partners or designed to match industry prototypes. "This assures that experimental results coming out of the lab are relevant to industry's current HCCI development needs," said Richard Steeper, a CRF scientist who oversees the lab.
CRF researchers are currently using the lab to achieve a better understanding of fuel injection strategies for controlling emissions during light-load HCCI operation and for extending the load range for high-efficiency HCCI operation.