Category: News

Michigan Tech Researchers Lead Project to Develop Cleaner, More Efficient Diesel Engines

Diesel engines are known to be reliable and economical. In recent years, they have also significantly reduced the particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions through advanced emissions control systems. An unfortunate side effect of cleaning up diesel exhaust, however, can be a drop in fuel efficiency and a need to do diagnostics of whether the systems is operating in its design state.

Now, a partnership led by researchers at Michigan Technological University is addressing the problem. The three-year, $2.8 million project is being funded largely by a $1.7 million grant from the US Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. Additional support and in-kind goods, services and expertise is provided by the partners from the diesel engine companies Cummins, John Deere, and Navistar; sensor manufacturer Watlow; and Johnson Matthey, a producer of diesel catalysts and pollution-control systems. Scientists at Oak Ridge and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories are also collaborating.

The overall goal for this project is energy efficient emission control for heavy-duty diesel engines and the development of accurate methods for On Board Diagnostics (OBD). Energy efficiency impacts associated with emission control can be classified as direct or indirect. Diesel particulate filters (DPFs) have two direct fuel penalty effects. First, active regeneration, to oxidize accumulated particulate matter (PM), can result in a fuel penalty. Second, inefficient regeneration control strategies can cause unnecessary exhaust backpressure, and potentially fuel penalties due to inefficient engine operation. The inability to identify and adapt control strategies to aging or compromised components is a secondary fuel penalty scenario. Taken to the extreme, this falls into the category of the need for on-board diagnostics (OBD).

Selective catalytic reduction devices (SCRs) are used to reduce exhaust NOx levels through reaction with ammonia. The typical ammonia delivery mechanism is through injection of liquid urea. The fuel penalty associated with inefficient SCR operation arises from over injection of urea. This requires more frequent resupply and wastes the energy required for urea production and distribution. Excessive ammonia slippage, an unregulated toxic emission, is a side outcome of this scenario and should be minimized through proper control and OBD strategy implementation.

Each has its own set of problems. Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF’s) fill up with particulate matter. “To clear that out, you inject diesel fuel,” says John Johnson, a presidential professor of mechanical engineering at Michigan Tech. “It ignites and burns out the particulate.” The process can affect engine efficiency in two ways, by using excess fuel to clean the filter and, when the filter is clogged, by causing backpressure on the engine. Selective catalytic reduction systems use urea to chemically scrub NOx out of diesel exhaust. “Sometimes, however, the system gets overloaded with urea, which is not only wasteful but also can cause toxic emissions of ammonia gas.”

Exploration of biodiesel effects on DPF and SCR functionality, with particular attention to control system impact, is another aspect of this study. The results of this research could have significant indirect fuel efficiency impact not only in proper functioning of DPFs and SCRs on engines using biodiesel, but also in reducing the U.S. reliance on diesel fuel which comes from foreign crude. “Biodiesel blends are becoming more common and many manufactures are certifying to 20% biodiesel similar to the use of ethanol in gasoline engines,” says Jeffrey Naber, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Michigan Tech. “However the engine and emission systems can react very differently to even these low biodiesel blends.” With proper technology, biodiesel could provide even lower emissions than traditional fuel without sacrificing fuel economy.

The researchers will create models and methods to improve the performance of both systems. One focus of their models will be for on-board diagnostics, so the driver can tell quickly and easily when an emissions control system needs attention. “It sounds pretty straightforward, but it can be tricky when you are dealing with complicated emissions controls,” says Gordon Parker, professor of mechanical engineering.

The benefits of this research are numerous, both direct and indirect. The diesel engine emission community will be able to apply and mold the estimation strategies developed by this project to fit their unique control and OBD development plans. Due to the wide-spectrum of NOx/PM ratios considered, the performance for existing and low-NOx engines can be assessed. Since the sensor type and combination is intimately tied to the state estimation activity, it’s very likely that this research will motivate sensor suppliers to develop new technologies, both passive and active, with the promise of being able to achieve emission control performance. Biodiesel effects control performance. The studies with biodiesel will determine changes that are needed in the control models due to engine out particulate matter changes in the reaction rate both passive and active in the DPF. Also, any effects of the biodiesel fuel on the DOC and SCR will also be determined so that appropriate changes in the control models could be implemented.

Finally, the organizational structure, bringing together engine OEMs, sensor and catalyst developers into a single focused research program will foster a level of system-level research focus not typically seen in user-specific research programs that focus only on the sensor, or the catalyst or the engine.

The principal investigator on the project is John Johnson, presidential professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics. Co-investigators in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics include Professors Gordon Parker, and Song-Lin Yang, and associate professor Jeff Naber. Jason Keith, an associate professor of chemical engineering, is also a co-investigator.

PhD Student Graduate Research Assistantships in Diesel Engine Aftertreatment System Modeling and State Estimation

The Intelligent Systems and Control Laboratory and the Advanced Power Systems Research Center in the Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics Department at Michigan Technological University invites applications for four PhD Student Graduate Research Assistantships in: Diesel Engine Aftertreatment System Modeling and State Estimation. It is estimated that 3 Assistantships will be in Mechanical Engineering and 1 Assistantship will be in Chemical Engineering.

These positions are made possible by a recent grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and are available immediately. They include tuition, stipend, and health care benefits. Because of the collaborative nature of this opportunity, research assistants may have short-term assignments at leading U.S. diesel engine manufacturers, catalyst developers and national laboratories further enhancing their educational experience.

Our research focuses on developing models and nonlinear state estimation strategies for diesel engine aftertreatment devices suitable for future on-board diagnostic (OBD) strategy development. Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and catalyzed particulate filters (CPF) are of particular interest. Developing fundamental and practical knowledge of how their performance varies when engines are run with biodiesel fuel blends is a goal. Experimental model validation,
calibration and adaptation as a function of sensor technology will also be investigated. The research will be carried out at Michigan Tech’s Advanced Power Systems Research Center facilities, participating national labs (ORNL and PNNL), diesel engine OEMs (Cummins, John Deere and Navistar), catalyst developers (Johnson Matthey) and sensor suppliers (Watlow).

We seek motivated PhD students with a passion for modeling and dynamometer-based experimentation of diesel engine subsystems. A Masters of Science degree in mechanical or chemical engineering is desirable. In addition, the applicant must meet the requirements for Graduate School admission as described at:

including taking the Graduate Records Examination (GRE). Demonstrated experience in four of the following topics is desired: (1) dynamic or kinetic system simulation, (2) internal combustion engines, (3) dynamometer engine testing with emissions testing (4) C or MATLAB programming, (5) chemical kinetics, (6) numerical methods for solution of partial differential equations (7) optimization methods and (8) advanced controls (e.g. state estimation, linear system theory, nonlinear control, optimal control, etc.), (9) advanced thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and CFD, and (10) catalysis.

Michigan Tech is in the community of Houghton, Michigan. It lies in the heart of Michigan’s scenic Keweenaw Peninsula, surrounded by Lake Superior and vast expanses of forest. It is an ideal location not only for study but also for enjoying outdoor recreation including backpacking, hiking, camping, fishing, and both alpine and cross-country skiing at Michigan Tech owned properties. For details visit: To apply please send an email statement of interest and a .pdf of your resume to Professors Gordon Parker at, and Jeffrey Naber at

Michigan Technological University is an equal opportunity educational institution/equal opportunity employer.

Michigan Tech, AVL and ESD to Provide Free Training for MI’s Auto Engineers

Michigan Tech, AVL and ESD to Provide Free Training for MI’s Auto Engineers

Classes Start September 3 -December 10, 2009
ESD Headquarters, Southfield
Thursdays, 5 – 8 p.m.

Michigan Technological University, AVL and The Engineering Society of Detroit (ESD) are reaching out to help Michigan’s automotive engineers prepare for the industry’s movement into sustainable hybrid vehicle technology. A semester-long course, Advanced Propulsion for Hybrid Vehicles with Concentration in Battery Engineering , will be offered tuition-free to 100 students this fall.

Who Qualifies? Only automotive engineers with a bachelor’s of science degree in engineering or similar sciences area are eligible to apply. To be considered, candidates must work for the auto industry or have been displaced due to economic conditions. First preference will be given to engineers employed in the auto industry.

The graduate-level, three-credit class will focus on engineering skills that apply to next-generation hybrid and electric vehicles with an emphasis on battery design and hands-on learning. It will be taught by a group of MTU faculty and staff from the College of Engineering and key experts in industry providing guest lectures with Associate Professor Jeffrey D. Nabor being the lead instructor.

The Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth as well as the Michigan Academy for Green Mobility are sponsoring the course. Tuition will be covered by federal dollars administered through Michigan Works!

For detailed class information and application requirements visit link below,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Engineering Society of Detroit
20700 Civic Center Drive, Suite 450, Southfield, MI 48076
248-353-0735  ·  fax 248-353-0736  ·

Chris Klaes Named to the 2009 Class of Michigan Tech Sports Hall of Fame

Chris Klaes (BSME ’91) has been named to the 2009 class of the Michigan Tech Sports Hall of Fame. He participated in track and cross country from 1987 to 1990 and is one of the most decorated runners in Michigan Tech history. He still holds the university record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and was named the GLIAC outdoor track MVP in 1990. He was also a GLIAC indoor champion.

Tammy Haut Donahue Selected to Participate in Women’s International Research Engineering Summit in Barcelona

Dr. Tammy Haut Donahue, Associate Professor, has been selected to participate in the Women’s International Research Engineering Summit (WIRES) in Barcelona Spain June 2 – 4. There were 276 applicants for the 50 US participant slots; full professors were selected on readiness to serve as role models, associate professors were selected based on demonstrated potential to conduct international research.

WIRES is the first annual international summit for women who are interested in pursuing international collaborative researching opportunities. The main objective of this summit is to enable meaningful and sustainable research exchanges between female engineers from around the world while identifying issues faced by females pursuing careers in engineering that could benefit from a global strategy.

Summit participation was limited to 50 US and 50 non-US women engineers. This event is the first in a series of such summits, and will focus on three research “clusters” or themes:

• Energy systems
• Micro/nanotechnology
• Simulation based engineering