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Researchers in PNNL's Engine Emissions Laboratory investigate catalysts, particulate traps and other methods for reducing engine emissions.
As demands increase for the transportation sector to reduce vehicle emissions, DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is teaming with engine manufacturers and catalyst suppliers to develop new systems that will help the automobile and trucking industries meet future emission standards.
Vehicles contribute heavily to four of the air pollutants monitored and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency: hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter. The EPA's requirements for diesel engines in heavy-duty trucks include a 90 percent reduction in particulate matter emissions by 2007 and a 90 percent reduction of oxides of nitrogen, also known as NO x , by 2010. NO x reacts with the hydrocarbons in the atmosphere to form ozone, a major component of smog.
Vehicle manufacturers are exploring several approaches to meeting the new requirements because no widely applicable technology exists to solve the problem. “Regardless of which technology comes out on top, the science doesn't change — and this makes for excellent partnering opportunities,” said George Muntean who oversees emissions research at PNNL.
The Exhaust Emissions Science Laboratory, where much of this work takes place, is a multidisciplinary research center with a primary focus on supporting the mission of DOE's Office of FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technology, particularly the Advanced Combustion Engine R&D Program.
Researchers working in the emissions laboratory apply their expertise in surface chemistry, catalyst mechanisms, materials synthesis, aerosols and modeling of multi-phase flow and chemical processes to the challenges associated with diesel engine exhaust emissions abatement.
Current activities to improve aftertreatment include research with DOW Automotive to develop a highly fuel efficient diesel particulate filter, a NOx absorber sulfur study with Cummins for to increase durability and work with General Electric on a system for off-highway applications. PNNL also is collaborating with Caterpillar on a low temperature oxidation catalyst for the next generation diesel engine.
The emissions laboratory also integrates the exhaust research capabilities of DOE's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, as well as PNNL's Exhaust Chemistry & Aerosol Research Center and advanced high performance computing resources.
For example, one multi-year simulation project aims to predict the complex patterns of exhaust flow through the twisting and branching of a filter's microscopic pores. Early work indicates that the model will provide precise information about the size, shape, consistency and location of the soot deposits within and upon the filter material.
According to PNNL researcher Mark Stewart, “Understanding the filtration mechanisms will allow the design of filters that are effective, reliable and have less negative impact on fuel efficiency than currently available devices.”
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