Department of Mechanical Engineering

Studying chemical kinetics and innovative ignition technologies of combustion

The world is currently dependent on burning non-sustainable fossil fuels to meet its energy needs. Combusting these fuels releases large amounts of greenhouse gases and other pollutants that are affecting our climate and atmosphere.  The future will require both improved fuel efficiency and the incorporation of renewable fuels in order to meet energy production and transportation needs. Enhanced ignition technologies may provide one way forward to meeting future emission standards and fuel economy requirements.  Additionally, studying the chemical kinetics of the combustion and after-treatment processes can lead to the development of cleaner and more efficient systems.

Elisa Toulson’s research in combustion is focused on enhanced ignition technologies such as turbulent jet ignition, which can improve fuel consumption, reduce emissions, and improve combustion stability in internal combustion engines. These technologies may also enable renewable fuels and fuel blends to be integrated with existing technologies, facilitating their introduction into the marketplace.

Chemical kinetics modeling is another important aspect of renewable fuel combustion that Dr. Toulson is researching. Alternative fuels such as biodiesel are presently receiving attention as potential substitutes for fossil fuels, as they can be renewable, carbon neutral and provide energy security. However, biodiesel oxidation chemistry is complicated to directly model and existing surrogate kinetic models are very large, making them computationally expensive. Reduced chemical kinetic models of biofuels are one way forward in enabling simulation of renewable fuel combustion. This type of modeling in conjunction with experimental research allows for an improved understanding of the combustion of new renewable fuels.