Thermodynamics

We undertake studies in transport, power generation and energy systems, with a focus on low emission technologies and energy efficiency.

Research areas

  • Reciprocating engine and gas turbine studies of conventional and alternative fuels
  • Optical diagnostics for sprays and engines
  • Numerical simulation of combusting and multiphase flows¬†
  • Powertrain dynamics and control
  • Technical and economic analysis of transport and energy systems

Our collaborators

Our work involves collaboration with both industry and government, as well as across several academic disciplines. We have ties with several local and international organisations, including:

  • Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)
  • California Institute of Technology
  • CERFACS, France
  • Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
  • Sandia National Laboratory, Combustion Research Facility
  • University of New South Wales

People

Facilities and projects

Transient Engine Dynamometer and Emissions Equipment

Our Horiba 460kW motoring/absorbing transient engine dynamometer and emissions bench allows us to mimic on-road, transient conditions. It is therefore ideal for optimising advanced engine systems powered by conventional and alternative fuels. This facility allows us to study both the engine and the exhaust aftertreatment system, giving us insights into how we can reduce real world fuel consumption and pollutant emissions.

Octane Rating Engine

We use our octane rating engine to study the autoignition and knocking of numerous fuels. We compare the measurements from this engine to our own computational engine models, and also to experimental data obtained in our plug flow reactor (PFR). We have studied numerous gasoline and gasoline surrogates, ethanol/gasoline mixtures and LPG.This suite of experimental and numerical tools allows us to examine the fundamental physical processes that limit engine performance and fuel octane.

Optical Engine

We have designed and built an optically accessible variant of a Ford production engine. This allows us to take images of fluid motion and combustion inside the engine whilst it is operating, using our laser diagnostic equipment.

Cylinders 1 and 4 are fitted with optical and metal liners respectively. This enables simultaneous measurements of the parameters of interest in both metal and optical cylinders.

Constant Volume Chamber (CVC)

When liquid fuel is injected into a combustion engine, it first breaks up into droplets and then evaporates and burns. These processes are complex, and are very challenging to analyse properly within an operating engine. We therefore use a constant volume chamber (CVC) to study the injection process itself, without the added complexity of a moving engine. This allows us to study the fuel spray in greater detail, using the laser diagnostic equipment in the laboratory.

Plug Flow Reactor

Our plug flow reactor is used to study the complex chemistry of fuel autoignition and oxidation. This novel design achieves a near-homogeneous mixture of fuel and air, and is one of the few such devices globally that can operate at the temperatures and pressures experienced by modern engines.

We sample the many different species formed during autoignition by traversing the length of the PFR with a movable sampling probe. We then compare our measurements to mathematical models of this fuel chemistry. This allows us to improve these models, thereby enhancing our understanding of the chemistry that occurs in real engines.

Optical Diagnostics

Spray formation and combustion processes are measured with in-situ, non-invasive diagnostics. Our advanced laser diagnostic equipment can image the instantaneous flow field (PIV), gaseous temperature (Rayleigh thermometry), thermokinetics and flame structure (Laser Induced Fluorescence, or LIF). High-speed Mie scattering and Schlieren are used to image spray and spray vapour development. This equipment is used on several rigs in the laboratory, notably the CVC, optical engine and the laminar premixed combustion rigs.

Numerical Simulations of Combustion and Combustion Engines

We use a number of simulation tools to perform fundamental and applied studies of combustion and combustion engines. These includes Chemkin and Cantera for fuel chemistry, direct numerical simulation (DNS) and large-eddy simulation (LES) for studies of combustion and multiphase flows and  Argonne Autonomie and GREET, Aspen and GTSuite for stationary and mobile power generation systems. As an example, we have recently performed DNS of sound generation by turbulent premixed flames using the biggest supercomputers in Australia. We use the produced data to shed light on the main noise sources in turbulent premixed flames. This has important implications for developing models required to predict noise in energy producing systems such as gas turbines.

Analysis of Energy Systems

We study the power system overall (electricity and gas), to find the least cost methods to reduce its emissions. As part of an ARENA funded project, we created a large scale optimization to model pathways from today to different levels of emission reduction in 2050. With AEMO, we created a model to calculate historical rooftop PV generation in each postcode. We are now looking at the market impact of increasing wind and solar generation, improving our solar PV modelling, as well as designing a hybrid power plant (solar PV, engine, and battery) for small to medium scale businesses and neighborhoods.