Researchers Work To Build More Fuel-Efficient Engines Using Supercomputing and a Brand New Fuel

by Lori Cameron
Published 02/14/2019
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Fifteen billion barrels of oil were burned worldwide last year—sending chemical gases, particulates, and petroleum hydrocarbons into the air, pollution that found its way into the cells of human bodies, the upper atmosphere, and all ecosystems and biomes in between.

The economic and environmental impact has alarmed environmentalists—prompting government and industry initiatives designed to drastically accelerate solutions to the enormous energy, security, and health problems facing the nation.

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Recently, an industry-led research team at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory used the IBM Blue Gene/Q Mira supercomputer to simulate about 2,000 engine design combinations in a matter of days.

heavy-duty engine
Visualization snapshot of a high-fidelity simulation of a heavy-duty engine fueled with a straight-run gasoline performed on the Mira supercomputer by researchers from Argonne National Laboratory, Aramco Research Center–Detroit, and Convergent Science Inc. The simulation has more than 100 million cells and is the largest engine simulation ever performed. This research provided unique insights about fuel-air mixing that enabled further engine optimization.

The team used this approach to optimize the fuel spray and combustion bowl geometry of a heavy-duty diesel engine.

The accelerated simulation time allowed the team to evaluate an unprecedented number of design variations and improve the production design using a new gasoline-like fuel with longer ignition delay and better fuel-air mixing capabilities.

They initially claimed even a 1 percent improvement in engine efficiency can save billions of gallons of fuel annually.

When all was said and done, their system created an engine efficiency of more than 4 percent.

Not bad at all.

Read more in “HPC Opens a New Frontier in Fuel-Engine Research.”



About Lori Cameron

Lori Cameron is Senior Writer for IEEE Computer Society publications and digital media platforms with over 20 years extensive technical writing experience. She is a part-time English professor and winner of two 2018 LA Press Club Awards. Contact her at Follow her on LinkedIn.