ORNL, Da Vinci Sign Licensing Agreement

Seated are (l to r) ORNL Partnerships Director Tom Ballard and Da Vinci CEO Kent Froelund. Standing are (l to r) Johney Green, ORNL Energy and Transportation Science Division; David Sims, Partnerships; and James Parks and Bill Partridge, both of Energy and Transportation Science Division.

An ORNL technology for analyzing automotive engine oil was recently licensed to Da Vinci Emissions Services, Ltd., a combustion engine emissions testing firm located in San Antonio, TX, that specializes in a broad suite of combustion engine lubrication and emissions testing services and equipment.

The technology was developed by James E. Parks and William P. Partridge of the Fuels, Engines, and Emissions Research Group in ORNL’s Energy and Transportation Science Division and grew out of a highly successful and ongoing cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) partnership between ORNL and Cummins Inc.

The device uses fluorescence spectroscopy to determine the amount of fuel dilution in engine oil, which can occur as fuel-efficient engines are operated in advanced combustion modes to meet increasingly lower emissions regulations. The condition thins the oil, lowers the lubricating ability, and can lead to higher engine wear, increased oil consumption, and in extreme cases, engine failure. Fuel dilution is also associated with modern diesel particulate filters, injection systems, and use of biodiesel fuels.

The ORNL-developed fluorescence measurement system provides real-time feedback on the fuel level in oil to engineers so that fuel-efficient and low-emission engine calibrations can be developed that prevent oil dilution from occurring. ORNL’s technique is faster, cheaper, and capable of detecting fuel contamination in lower amounts than other methods. Conventional techniques require sampling and sending the oil to an analytical lab, resulting in up to a 2-day delay for results.

"DOE supports the development of advanced combustion engines that provide high efficiency and low emissions, but better diagnostic tools are required to realize these technology improvements," Parks said. “This technology and its transfer to the private marketplace through DaVinci will hasten development of these advanced engine systems that meet DOE goals.”

Da Vinci CEO Kent Froelund called the invention a perfect fit for his company, which specializes in internal combustion engine lubrication and emissions testing, such as providing engine manufacturers with real-time oil consumption measurements. "Licensing this technology enhances Da Vinci’s ability to help engine manufacturers build more environmentally clean
engines with reduced oil consumption, less catastrophic wear, no oil leakages, extended oil-change intervals, less fouling of exhaust treatment systems, and fewer emissions," he said.

The oil-dilution probe was developed in the Fuels, Engines, and Emissions Research Center, a comprehensive laboratory for internal combustion engine technology and one of DOE’s National User Centers at ORNL.


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