Areas of Research Expertise: Biofuels
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Background: Engines & Energy Conversion Laboratory
The Engines & Energy Conversion Laboratory (EECL) is a unique research/education program housed in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The laboratory was established in the Old Fort Collins Power Plant in June 1992. In the years since then the laboratory has grown to become one of the largest and most influential engines research programs in the United States. The EECL is widely recognized as an international leader in the fields of large gas engines for power generation and compression, small 2-stroke cycle engines for use in developing countries, alternative fuels for automobiles, computational fluid dynamic (CFD) modeling of engines, and optical combustion diagnostics. The Department has invested in the laboratory through the recent hires of two new faculty members who have established new EECL programs in diesel engines, laser diagnostics, and plasma applications in engines.


4024T Deere engine
John Deere 4024T used for biofuel injection testing

Development of a Fuel Injection System for Algae-Based Biodiesel Emissions Testing - back to top

Although most studies have shown that total PM mass emissions usually decrease with biodiesel, recent studies have reported decreased mean particle size and increased particle-bound organic carbon in biodiesel exhaust. These results are potentially problematic from a health standpoint since smaller particles penetrate farther into the lungs and some of the organic carbon (such as PAH's) adsorbed onto particulate surfaces are known carcinogens. To characterize the particle size distribution and organic carbon (OC) composition from algae-derived biofuel combustion, engine-out particulate matter from a 2.4 L John Deere 4024T engine will be characterized on-line, using a Time of Flight Aerosol Mass Spectrometer. In order to accommodate small fuel samples, an ultra low volume fuel injection system must be designed and built that will enable injection of small fuel quantities into one of the engine cylinders. The system must be capable of running engine tests with fuel samples of less than 100 ml and also allow for accurate control of fuel temperature and pressure. Thus, the overall objectives of this project are to develop the injection system, integrate it with the 4024T engine, to develop the necessary support systems required for engine testing and to perform the first set of engine tests wherein particulate matter and nitric oxide are measured.

Development of a Sampling Device to Assess Personal Exposure to Engineered Nanoparticles - back to top

Today there are hundreds of commercial products on the market that stem from nanotechnology research. Nanoparticles are present in paints and coatings from solar cells to the side of your house, in powders and suspensions from sunscreens and shampoos, or as structural matrices in bicycle tires to clothing. These engineered nanoparticles may present new and challenging hazards to the health of both humans and the environment alike (asbestos fibers and radioactive paint were also once touted as 'life-changing materials' during the last century). Consequently, there is a need to understand the potential for the inadvertent release of engineered nanoparticles to the environment and subsequent human exposures. This project is designed to help meet that need. Specifically, the goal of this project is to develop an accurate, sensitive, and specific method to assess personal exposures to engineered nanoparticles in air. To quantify concentrations of airborne nanoparticles, the device must capture and segregate airborne particles by size (only particles smaller than 100 nm are true nanoparticles) and to count these particles following capture. Most importantly, the method must be able to distinguish engineered nanoparticles from other incidental nanoparticles (i.e., ultrafine particles) that are already present in ambient air. Students involved in this project will help design and fabricate a prototype instrument capable of capturing, imaging, and counting airborne nanoparticles. This is an interdisciplinary project spanning three CSU colleges with faculty from the Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry, and Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences.

4045H Deere engine
4.5L John Deere 4045H used for SVO testing

Operation of a 4.5L John Deere Engine on Straight Vegetable Oil - back to top

Straight vegetable Oil (SVO) is currently being investigated as an alternative fuel for compression ignition (CI) engines. There are a number of drivers, including the US energy security, rising cost of petroleum based fuels, pollutant emission regulations, and climate change concerns. Some studies have shown emissions reductions from CI engine running on SVO compared with diesel fuel. SVO is a renewable fuel derived from oil seed crops with minimal processing and energy input. By comparison biodiesel is oil, vegetable or animal fat derived, that is transesterified, which is an additional chemical processing step that must be performed. New oil seed crops are being developed specifically for engine fuel that required minimal irrigation and grow in arid climates. Byproducts from oil seed processing can be used as livestock feed.

The disadvantage of SVO is that the properties are different than diesel fuel, and vary significantly with feedstock type. Consequently, engine hardware modifications are typically implemented to accommodate fuel property differences. Generally indirect injection engines can be operated on SVO using an SVO kit that consists of a fuel heater only to reduce viscosity. However, indirect injection engines generally cannot meet current and pending emissions regulations; therefore, most modern CI engines are direct injection. SVO kits for direct injection engines may include new fuel injectors, a new pump, and new filters in addition to an oil heating system.

The focus of this project is on SVO kit design for a John Deere Powertech 4.5 liter common rail, direct injection diesel engine. This 4-cylinder, 16 valve, turbocharged engine has a rated power of 129 kW (173 hp) at 2400 rpm. The project tasks will include

  1. Engine commissioning - design/install systems (exhaust, cooling, etc.) necessary to get the 4.5 L engine at the EECL operational
  2. Baseline testing - perform typical load map using diesel fuel
  3. SVO kit selection - perform survey of available SVO kits; select/procure kit
  4. SVO kit installation
  5. SVO testing - perform typical load map using SVO fuel
  6. Generate new SVO kit design based on operational experience and test results

Yanmar engine
Yanmar single-cylinder diesel engine used for SVO testing

Operation of a Yanmar Engine on Straight Vegetable Oil - back to top

Vegetable oil was the original source of fuel for diesel-style engines. The need for renewable fuel sources in agricultural and developing nation applications inspires renewed interest in straight vegetable oil (SVO) research in engines. Adaptations are needed for a diesel engine to use SVO as a fuel without harm to the engine. For the engine lab's research purposes, a Yanmar single cylinder direct inject engine has been retrofitted with a two tank system to used straight vegetable oil as a fuel. The engine may also be tested with other biofuels. Short terms tests on multiple vegetable oil types - focusing on emissions and long term tests directed at longevity issues are being done. At the completion of these tests, it is hoped that an idealized oil type or range of oil types will be generated, as well as further refinements for adaptations to existing engine technology.

This project is in collaboration with the Soil and Crop Department at Colorado State.