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Simulating New Engine Designs

Farhad Jaberi, professor in MSU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, studies turbulent flows in engines and in other systems, using a technique called computational fluid dynamics. Computers at MSU’s High Performance Computer Center (HPCC) allow him and his colleagues to perform this analysis at far greater precision for far more complex systems than would be possible using conventional computers.

His work in fluid dynamics extends to many areas, including helping NASA design advanced jet engines. Recently he joined a team of colleagues in MSU’s Mechanical Engineering and Chemical Engineering Departments to collaborate with Ford Motor Company and Visteon to develop advanced, low-emission designs for diesel engines that run on biofuels. Harold Schock, also an MSU mechanical engineering professor, leads the mechanical engineering team; Dennis Miller, professor in MSU’s Department of Chemical Engineering, leads MSU’s partnerships with Ford. The U.S. Department of Energy and State of Michigan are providing $4.8 million in funding.

Jaberi explains that modeling the flow of air and fuel in an internal combustion engine uses the same equations used to predict the weather. He cites the “butterfly effect” – the notion that small changes in the environment could cause noticeable changes in the weather pattern. The details of what happens within an engine are enormously complex. Variables include turbulent flows, chemical reaction, complex geometries, moving pistons, moving valves, unsteady flows, and the method of injection.

The simulations allow the team to refine designs that experimentalists, led by Schock, can use to build test engines. By simulating engine design, the number of test engines that need to be built is minimized, which ultimately will accelerate the process of finding more efficient engine designs.

– Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research (iCER)

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