The fuels, engines, and emissions research laboratory at Oak Ridge National Laboratory conducts research and development focused on the interrelated areas of advanced combustion engines, lubricants, fuels, and emissions controls. The primary goals of fuels and engines research are to develop knowledge and accelerate the deployment of renewable fuels and new technologies that increase vehicle efficiency, reduce petroleum consumption, and decrease harmful emissions.
Scientists from diverse backgrounds—including mechanical and chemical engineers, chemists, physicists, and environmental scientists—work closely with industry to develop and evaluate new engine technologies, alternative fuels, and emissions controls. Research is performed at all levels, from basic chemistry to component studies to engine systems and full vehicle applications. Scientists also leverage one-of-a-kind expertise and facilities at ORNL in the areas of leadership computing, neutron sciences, materials characterization, advanced manufacturing, and biosciences.
The ORNL team is highly engaged in both industry and government research on fuels, engines, and emissions technologies. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office and Bioenergy Technologies Office along with industry partners are the main sponsors of fuels and engines research. Scientists work with industry through the Crosscut Lean Exhaust Emissions Reduction Simulations team, participate in the U.S. DRIVE and 21st Century Truck Partnership, and contribute to the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center for Clean Vehicles partnership. They participate in many cooperative research and development agreements with industry and perform sponsored research for engine manufacturers, automotive manufacturers, energy companies, and supplier organizations.
Researchers also fulfill leadership roles in professional societies such as the Society of Automotive Engineers International, the Combustion Institute, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. These activities allow scientists in fuels and engines to stay at the forefront of current engine research and emission controls issues.
One aspect of fuels and engines research is experiments and analysis about factors that affect real-world fuel economy, such as air conditioner use, maintenance, vehicle speed, and carrying extra cargo. Researchers in the adjacent Center for Transportation Analysis turn this data into driving tips for the public and post them on www.fueleconomy.gov, DOE’s most visited website. For example, fuels and engines research has demonstrated that dirty engine air filters do not affect fuel economy in modern vehicles, correcting decades of erroneous advice on this subject.