Innovative Low Carbon, High Fuel Efficiency Power Generation Technology

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering


The overall goal of the work at Brunel would be to improve understanding of the ideal combustion system via theoretical
analysis, simulation and engine testing.
The objective of the first phase of work at Brunel would be to specify a combustion system that can attain the highest
combustion and thermal efficiencies within the unique environment of relatively high starting temperature, low starting
pressure and expanding volume. Initial work would involve benchmarking the requirements of the combustion system.
Specifically, this would be reliant upon use of existing empirical data for key nominated fuels (including natural gas and
other potential biofuels offering synergy). Such calculations would provide a baseline. In reality faster modes may be
required (e.g. fuel stratification, dual fuel etc). Thereafter, formal engineering concept generation and selection procedures
would be adopted to specify the ideal combustion system type and layout. The performance of the system taken forward
would then be evaluated in detail using existing 1D thermodynamic (GT-Power) and/or 3D CFD simulation codes. In
addition to this simulation work Brunel would undertake a detailed review of potential markets and appropriate fuels for the
technology, with a full report on potential future opportunities prepared.
Thereafter, in the second phase of work at Brunel the single cylinder would be fitted to an engine test bed and the
operation of the novel unit fully quantified in terms of mechanical operation, gas exchange efficiency, combustion efficiency,
thermal efficiency, fuel economy and engine-out emissions. This work would make use of the existing industry standard
test facilities at Brunel, with development support provided by the industrial partners as required. Specifically, the engine
operation and efficiencies would be evaluated at rated power and other key sites nominated to aid understanding of the
novel mode of operation. Finally, these test results would be used to fully correlate the engine simulation and hence
maximise understanding of the novel mode of engine operation proposed.

Planned Impact

A successful project will lead to the development and commercial deployment of a UK owned patented 20% more efficient
internal combustion engine suitable for distributed Power Generation (PG) solutions. Improvements in fuel efficiency will be
realised, operating costs and carbon emissions will be significantly reduced. High efficiency at small scale (1MW) will offer
a load following, flexible PG solution enabling a higher penetration of renewable PG and facilitating distributed PG reducing
the risk of cascading failures across the grid. Rapidly deployable PG could replace coal and other power stations being
retired early, mitigating the risk of rolling black-outs. All improvements in efficiency will decrease current reliance on imported fuels.
There is a vibrant and internationally renowned university research community in IC engines in UK universities as
represented by UnICEG, a voluntary organisation of IC engines researchers with over 100 memberships. Most of them are
recognised as internationally leading researchers in the fundamentals of combustion engines and advanced engine
technologies. In addition, the UK is the home of several world leading powertrain consultancy companies as well as the
research product development centres for stationary engine manufacturers such as Cummins and Caterpillar. The
proposed research will not only provide the high level knowledge and intellectual skills but also be crucial to maintain and
strengthen the UK's internationally leading capabilities in IC engines research and development, through training the high
quality research and development engineers for OEMs, consulting companies and Tier 1 suppliers. Furthermore, the
knowledge and understanding on the optimum combustion system and fuel for the split cycle engine will help the UK
energy industry be better prepared for future market requirements and develop more efficient and effective fuel production
processes which can lead to further reduction in CO2 emissions. Finally, in addition to the social and environmental
benefits associated with the reduced emissions of CO2 and exhaust pollutants from such powertrains, the novel engine will
help reduce the operating cost of the power generation industry and hence the living costs of the general public.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/N50841X/1 30/09/2015 30/11/2016 £230,046
EP/N50841X/2 Transfer EP/N50841X/1 01/02/2017 30/11/2017 £110,813
Description This award was follow on funding through a large IUK Energy catalyst collaborative programme. The key findings from the work were that the engine design proposed by the lead partner was potentially flawed, with excessive relative friction losses leading to a brake thermal efficiency lower than the target value of 50%.
Exploitation Route Some of the modelling techniques could be adopted in other IC engine and waste heat systems
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Environment,Transport

Description Initially it was hoped that the results could be used by the lead partner to attract additional investment to take forward the concept to prototype build. Unfortunately the modelling discredited the engine concept.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Environment,Transport
Impact Types Economic

Description Innovate UK Energy Catalyst
Amount £2,300,000 (GBP)
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 11/2018
Description IUK Innovate Low Carbon Power Generation Technology 
Organisation Powergen plc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Continued evaluation of a highly novel split cycle engine for power generation
Collaborator Contribution As a result of successful EPSRC funded work additional work was transferred to Nottingham concerned with novel heat exchanger design and analysis and extended thermodynamic simulation
Impact This collaboration is mutli disciplinary. Generally the work is considering a novel split cycle system, where the compressor is developed by Lontra. Integral Powertrain are developing novel power electronics and machines that may be used for waste heat recovery. Nottingham are responsible for analysis and simulation of the systems as a whole.
Start Year 2017