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Monday, October 26, 2020

Academics & Research

Grant fuels diesel research


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The research conducted by Cullen College of Engineering professors would hopefully help reduce pollution emissions from burnt diesel gas. | Courtesy of UH.edu

The Cullen College of Engineering has been awarded a $1.2 million grant by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy for research into diesel engines and their emissions.

A team of professors at the college were awarded for their research of 15 years spent seeking a solution for the issue of pollution reduction.

“As (an) engine gets more efficient, it operates at a lower temperature,” said chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Dan Luss. “The most efficient examples release exhaust at about 150 degrees. However, current catalytic converters are built to operate at 200 degrees at the lowest.”

The catalytic converter is the part of an engine built to either remove harmful pollutants from engine exhaust or convert these pollutants into a less harmful form. This means that new high-efficiency diesel engines, when paired with catalytic converters currently in use, will pose a different threat to the environment. An environment like this produces larger amounts of nitrogen oxides, otherwise known as NOx gases.

“NOx gases go into the atmosphere and react with hydrocarbons and sunlight to produce ozone. Ozone is a strong oxidant and can damage your lungs,” said chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Mike Harold. “When you hear about a bad air day in Houston, it’s usually because of unacceptable levels of ozone.”

A series of regulations by the U.S. government known as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards call for a significant increase in overall vehicle fuel economy within 12 years. Those involved in this research initiative hope it could prove helpful in meeting these new standards.

“What we’ve been working on is designing catalysts at the molecular level, making those catalysts, testing those catalysts, ultimately trying to come up with the catalyst that will work under the worst conditions possible,” said chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Bill Epling, who leads the project.

Along with Epling, Harold and Luss, professors Vemuri Balakotaiah, Lars Grabow and Hugh Roy are also involved in the research.

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