Fuels, Engines, and Emissions

The Fuels, Engines, and Emissions Research Center (FEERC) is the most comprehensive capability in the DOE system for interrelated research on internal combustion engine efficiency, emission controls, and fuel effects. FEERC specializes in research on high-efficiency combustion, emissions controls, emissions chemistry, renewable fuels, and lubricant technologies using innovative diagnostic instruments and research procedures developed within ORNL. The applications include engines for transportation, distributed energy, and portable power. FEERC performs research on all system levels spanning basic chemistry and materials to components to engine systems to full vehicle applications.  FEERC experiments and modeling support consumer data for the popular website sponsored by the DOE and the Environmental Protection Agency. The R&D conducted at FEERC leverages one-of-a-kind expertise and facilities at ORNL in the areas of leadership computing, neutron sciences, microscopy, materials characterization, advanced manufacturing, and biosciences.

R&D Focus Areas

  • Advanced propulsion systems
  • Fuel and lubricant technologies
  • Aftertreatment and materials characterization
  • Adaptive and self-learning engine controls
  • Biomass-to-fuel catalyst technology development
  • Unique diagnostics development
  • Computational modeling
  • Stationary power systems and auxiliaries

Equipment Highlights

  • Seven double-ended engine dynamometers ranging from 25 to 600 horsepower, some with motoring capability
  • Multiple full-pass engine control systems
  • Vehicle chassis dynamometer with approximately 300 horsepower absorption capacity
  • Analytical chemistry laboratory
  • Catalysis function laboratory
  • Bench-top exhaust flow simulators

In addition to multiple benches for regulated emissions measurements, FEERC staff and instruments are capable of conducting speciation of exhaust constituents in great detail, while striving for fast time resolution. Several configurations of mass spectrometers and chromatographs are available, as well as Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). Capillary electrophoresis analyzes urea decomposition products. Exhaust volatile and semi-volatile constituent speciation can be performed. Exhaust particle characterization is accomplished through various methods, including time-integrated mass measurement on filters by tapered element oscillating microbalance, particle sizing by micro-orifice uniform deposit impactor system and scanning mobility particle sizer, composition analysis, and transmission electron microscopy for particle morphology.

Analytical laboratories house flow benches and surface spectroscopy instruments for studies of catalyst kinetics and aging mechanisms. FEERC has examples of a very rare and effective configuration of diffuse reflectance infrared spectroscopy (DRIFTS) and a well-equipped chemisorption apparatus.

FEERC develops novel diagnostic instrumentation and provides it to researchers, either at the NTRC or, in some cases, at the researcher’s facility, for example, an engine plant.  These instruments include

  • Spatially resolved capillary inlet mass spectrometer (SpaciMS), providing dynamic in situ chemical speciation of, for example, exhaust constituents or intake air
  • DRIFTS for catalyst surface diagnostics
  • Fiber optic–based phosphor thermometry for non-contact temperature measurements
  • Exhaust gas recirculation corrosion probe
  • Laser-induced fluorescence oil diagnostic

These capabilities and novel diagnostics support the study of the impacts of fuel and lubricant properties on advanced combustion processes, emissions, and emission control strategies and devices. The range of fuels studied includes gaseous (natural gas) and liquid fuels from conventional and unconventional fossil-based sources, as well as non-petroleum fuels from synthetic and renewable sources. FEERC conducts research on innovative internal combustion engine technologies and control systems for improved efficiency. Combustion research combines fundamental novel concepts, multi-cylinder implementations, and full vehicle studies and simulations in order to understand the potential of new combustion concepts.  Combining novel diagnostic and experimental methods with modeling, FEERC scientists also develop improved understanding of the functions and key mechanisms of emission control devices such as lean NOX traps, urea selective catalytic reduction, and diesel particulate filters, with emphasis on improving total system efficiency.