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Variable air composition for diesel engines - a new technology from Argonne

6 February 1999

The Argonne National Laboratory has been developing a new diesel engine technology that may help reduce emissions and improve engine efficiency. In the Argonne technology, the combustion air is enriched in oxygen, resulting in simultaneous reductions of NOx and PM emissions.

Argonne is adapting a hollow fiber membrane technology for the diesel engine. The polymer hollow fibers have been used for oxygen separation in other industries. The hollow fiber membrane separates air into oxygen-rich and nitrogen-rich streams. The oxygen-rich air stream is fed into the diesel engine, where the extra oxygen improves combustion. That strategy allows a simultaneous reduction in both NOx (by 15%) and particulates (by 60%).

This technology is being developed under a multi-year contract between General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division (EMD) and Argonne’s Transportation Technology R&D Center. The first target will be railroad locomotives. First locomotive tests were also reported to show a 15% increase in the engine gross power.

The variable air composition technology will be also applicable to other types of diesel engines, such as trucks and diesel fueled cars. Argonne estimates that, thanks to the improved engine efficiency, diesel cars would emit 28% less greenhouse gases over the total energy cycle, including refining and vehicle use.

An overview of the technology has been published in a recent Technical Insights report.

Contact: Evelyn Brown (Argonne) 630/252-5510
Paula McGhee (EMD) 708/387-6650