SBU team lands $1M for clean engine ignition

SBU profs Ben Lawler and Sotirios Mamalis with the prototype engine they'll use in DOE-backed research.

A Stony Brook University-led research team has received a $1 million Department of Energy grant to advance research on what’s called Reactivity Controlled Compression Ignition, an emerging combustion technology that uses compression instead of spark ignition to simultaneously reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Research will focus on eliminating the need for two different fuels — currently gas and diesel — to enable RCCI.

The DOE grant to Stony Brook is one of eight awarded to research teams around the country investigating advanced vehicle technologies. According to the DOE, the funding goes toward projects that “pursue breakthrough approaches to providing Americans with greater freedom of mobility and energy security, while lowering costs and reducing environmental impacts.” DOE is providing a total of $10 million in funding to the eight projects, each of which focuses on innovative solutions for efficient and environmentally friendly vehicle technologies to reduce petroleum use in the United States.

“National laboratories and academia have extensively researched RCCI for a decade due to its potential, and the benefits for improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions are well-documented,” said Benjamin Lawler, the Stony Brook team’s lead and an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at SBU. “However, the added cost and complexity of using two fuels has stalled industry interest in RCCI. We hope to discover an efficient and cost-effective way to employ RCCI combustion using one fuel.”

Lawler and Stony Brook’s Sotirios Mamalis, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, proposed the use of an onboard fuel “reformer” to create the necessary separation that would enable RCCI to function on a single fuel. The research team is testing three possible parent fuels — gasoline, diesel and natural gas — that have the potential for automotive applications. Testing is at Stony Brook’s Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center.

Other lead members of the team include Dennis Assanis, a professor of mechanical engineering and provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Stony Brook. Other participants in the research include Marco Castaldi of the City College of New York and Dean Modroukas of Innoveering LLC.