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  5. UW-Madison spinoff receives $1.5 million for optimizing dual-fuel engines

UW-Madison spinoff receives $1.5 million for optimizing dual-fuel engines

Rolf Reitz

Rolf Reitz

A spinoff company created by two University of Wisconsin-Madison Engine Research Center (ERC) faculty members was awarded $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The award addresses a DOE vehicle technologies goal to reduce the fuel consumption of on-highway vehicles, which account for 55 percent of total U.S. oil use. 

Wisconsin Engine Research Consultants LLC is a spinoff company run by former students of the UW-Madison Engine Research Center. Wisconsin Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering Rolf Reitz and Mechanical Engineering Professor Christopher Rutland created the company in 1999 to provide analysis services to the engine industry.

Reitz says the company will use the money to advance dual-fuel engine technology that has already been shown to dramatically lower fuel use and emissions in ERC laboratories.

The project is one of 40 awarded a total of $175 million by the DOE, intended to target new innovations and accelerate the development of the next generation of fuel-efficient vehicles.

Reitz's team first developed the dual-fuel reactivity controlled compression ignition (RCCI) engine at the Engine Research Center. The RCCI engine uses a blend of diesel and gasoline fuels, injected at different times. Optimized mixing of the two fuels allows combustion to take place at lower temperatures, which both reduces how much energy is lost in just keeping the engine hot, and minimizes the production of nitric oxides, one of the biggest culprits in vehicle-related air pollution. 
 

Christopher Rutland

Christopher Rutland

"The research goal targets a 20-percent improvement over current diesel engines," Reitz says. "This will have a significant impact on U.S. oil security."

The dual-fuel engine technology is also currently being implemented in the College of Engineering hybrid vehicle team's MOOVADA and eMOOVE vehicles (read more here), and could emit up to 75 percent fewer greenhouse gases while consuming 20 to 30 percent less fuel than a standard diesel engine, team advisor Glenn Bower says.

Reitz says the grant will allow his company to optimize the RCCI engine for both light-duty and heavy-duty engines, in conjunction with the Engine Research Center, which will be installing new engine test facilities with matching funds from Caterpillar Inc. The Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee, also a subcontractor on the project, will perform automotive engine testing.

Aside from experimentation to expand the technology's operating range, the company will also pursue critical computer modeling to identify the exact conditions under which RCCI can most effectively and safely operate.  Reitz also says that the project will also bring the new RCCI technology closer to commercial use. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has several patent applications pending.
 

Christie Taylor
8/16/2011