With engine emissions requirements as strict as ever and federally mandated fuel economy standards set to rise, the National Science Foundation has awarded professors at the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering $200,000 to further their research on computational models and algorithms to optimize engine performance in both areas.
The three-year grant’s principal investigator is Karolos Grigoriads, professor of mechanical engineering with the Cullen College. Grigoriadis and his collaborators have spent much of the past 20 years developing and refining algorithms for improving engine fuel efficiency and lowering emissions, partnering with companies such as Cummins, Ford and General Motors in the process. In addition to the NSF, their work has received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Army Research Office and many companies in the engine and automotive sector.
The approach these researchers take addresses both the engine itself, as well as the catalyst used to reduce harmful emissions through chemical reactions. “It’s important to have a model of the whole system, the engine and the catalyst,” Grigoriadis said. “We need to understand the input/output behaviors of each individual subsystem and we need mathematical models that describe this behavior. The algorithms are designed based on these models and they adjust and optimize in real time the coupled behavior of the engine and the catalyst.”
Through these algorithms, then, vehicles’ onboard computing systems are able to use engine data (such as load and speed), predict catalyst performance (such as the amount of oxygen in the catalyst at a given moment) and then tweak their combined operation to meet stricter pollution and mileage standards.
Grigoriadis is collaborating on this project with Matthew Franchek, professor of mechanical engineering, as well as Vemuri Balakotaiah, professor and Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair in the Cullen College's Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.