Combustion Research Facility - First Diesel Engine Designed Entirely Computationally

Cummins, a global manufacturer and distributor of diesel and natural gas engines, achieved a 10 percent reduction in the time and cost of designing a more robust, fuel-efficient, and clean-burning engine through the innovative work of a public-private partnership supported by the Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The improvements were achieved by using computer modeling and simulation instead of the traditional build-and-test method. The multi-institution collaboration involved industry, universities, and National Laboratories with leadership provided by Sandia National Laboratories’ Combustion Research Facility (CRF) and funding largely provided by the Department of Energy.

Cummins’ ISB 6.7 liter diesel engine, first introduced in 2007, was designed entirely by computer modeling and simulation. The engine now powers more than 200,000 Dodge Ram heavy-duty pickup trucks. Today, most U.S. engines are designed using computer modeling and simulation—a change that is helping U.S. industry cut years off of product development cycles and bringing the nation closer to its goal of reducing petroleum usage for transportation by 17 percent by 2020.

Sandia’s Engine Combustion Research Program provided Cummins a completely new and authoritative understanding of the complex physical and chemical processes that drive diesel combustion. This research effort rested on more than 15 years of CRF investigation into the complex and fundamental phenomena of ignition. This fundamental understanding— achieved through the application of Sandia-developed laser diagnostics in the CRF’s optical engine facilities—was vital to developing the computational tools used by Cummins. Other key contributors to Cummins’ successes include:

  • Los Alamos National Laboratory provided the numerical framework for the engine combustion models
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provided chemical kinetic models for combustion and emissions
  • The University of Wisconsin and University of Michigan helped develop many of the sub-models for diesel combustion

Combustion Research Facility (CRF)

As a DOE Office of Science collaborative research facility, a key aspect of the CRF’s mission is to encourage the direct involvement of individuals, or “collaborators,” from the scientific community. The CRF also works with industrial partners on precompetitive projects that are shared with the community and on proprietary projects that are wholly owned by the sponsor. The CRF has been working closely with U.S. engine manufacturers for more than 30 years to increase scientific understanding of internal combustion engine processes affecting efficiency and emissions.