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Scientists to explore need for, relevance of combustion engines at AAAS gathering

Enhancements to combustion technology can still help with carbon reduction, oil savings issues

LIVERMORE, Calif.— The internal combustion engine has been the workhorse for transportation for more than a century, but Sandia National Laboratories researchers say there is still plenty to learn about engineering it to burn cleaner and more efficiently.


The Combustion Research Facility (CRF) is an internationally recognized center of excellence for combustion science and technology whose operations are supported by the DOE Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences. The CRF is home to about 100 scientists, engineers, and technologists who conduct basic and applied research aimed at improving our nation’s ability to use and control combustion processes. (Photo courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

A Sandia researcher will be among a half dozen scientists working on transportation energy issues who will present their work at a panel during the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting. The panel, Predictive Model of the Internal Combustion Engine, is scheduled Feb. 16 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. at the AAAS gathering in Boston.

“We all use it [the combustion engine], but we don’t know what’s going on inside of it,” said panelist Nils Hansen, a Sandia combustion chemist. “Once we have a detailed understanding of what’s going on, you can start to preclude things from happening like soot formation and other pollutant emissions.”

“We can now realistically conceive of having a fully predictive model of the internal combustion engine on the computer,” added Sandia’s Ahren Jasper, the session’s lead organizer. Such a model, he said, could be a “golden egg’’ for industry, as it would significantly reduce the development time and cost of new engines optimized for future fuel streams, including renewables such as biomass-derived fuels.

Combustion, Jasper said, is a multi-scale problem and thus requires a multi-disciplinary technical approach. The session’s panelists are expected to demonstrate how various aspects of combustion science are linked, and how the international combustion community is organized to solve this “big science” problem.

In late 2011, the Washington Post published an op-ed piece by Sandia’s Bob Carling, director of the internationally renowned Combustion Research Facility, titled “An engine we still need – how we can save energy with combustion technology.” Hansen said the themes of that piece – particularly, that combustion will remain a necessary technology even as advanced and renewable fuels are developed – are highly relevant to the Predictive Model session.

Speakers at the Predictive Model of the Internal Combustion Engine session (with links to their areas of combustion expertise) include:

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Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Mike Janes,, (925) 294-2447