Turbocharging our engines, for the environment

Our latest blog post is from Dr Peter Newton from UTM centre for low carbon vehicles, in cooperation with Imperial College. His research focuses on turbo charger technology for use in various kinds of automobile.

Transport accounts for well over 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and a large portion of this can be attributed to the internal combustion engine (ICE). Although electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming more prevalent it is clear that ICEs will still play a major role in the automotive power train for many decades to come. One way to reduce their impact is the inclusion of a turbocharger that can increase the performance of a smaller engine to make it match that of the larger one.

Dr Peter Newton

I am currently the UTM research fellow for the UTM centre for low carbon vehicles, in cooperation with Imperial College. I work on several different projects to do with novel turbocharging concepts and also different methods of waste heat recovery for internal combustion engines.

EFL_img-527_72My work on improving ICEs performance is essential as there are still many disadvantages to the alternatives, including greater cost and the low energy density of contemporary battery technologies. Therefore, continued research to improve the performance of ICEs to meet ever greater efficiencies and emission levels, whilst still meeting demanding performance requirements, is of great importance.

The research I am doing looks at perhaps one of the most common means of doing this, by “downsizing” an engine, which is to replace a large engine with a smaller one that will have lower emissions. To do this while ensuring that the smaller engine has the same performance characteristics as the larger one means invariably using a turbocharger. This is employed to increase the performance of the smaller engine to make it match that of the larger one.

This can be done whilst still maintaining some of the efficiency benefits of the smaller machine. Because they are usually associated with large and powerful cars, people sometimes find it surprising that one of the most effective ways of improving engine performance is through turbocharging. Being such a key element in the downsizing process it is clear that the optimisation of the turbocharger performance is a crucial pursuit.

It builds upon my PhD research on improving understanding of turbocharger turbine performance. The work was supported by ABB Turbosystems and involved both experimental and computational work to enhance the understanding of the flow field inside a turbocharger turbine, when subjected to a pulsating inlet flow condition, akin to that which it would see when placed on a real ICE.

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