DOE Officials Visit MSU Energy & Automotive Research Laboratories

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August 30, 2010

Officials from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) were on campus today to learn more about two ARPA-E–funded projects.

Norbert Mueller, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MSU, gave a demonstration of his wave disk engine project to Arun Majumdar, ARPA-E director, and Eric Toone, ARPA-E deputy director and chief technology officer.

Earlier this year, Michigan State University engineers and scientists received $2.5 million from the agency to build and develop the wave disk engine, which uses turbo combustion “shock wave” technology to convert either liquid fuel or compressed natural gas or hydrogen into electrical power. With this engine, fuel efficiency for hybrid vehicles could increase five times compared to internal combustion engine vehicles on the road today, while reducing costs by 30 percent. The goal of Mueller’s team is to produce an engine that would give hybrid vehicles a 500-mile driving range and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 90 percent.

In photo above, Arun Majumdar (far right), director of the Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), asks questions as Norbert Mueller (center), associate professor of mechanical engineering, explains the wave disk engine technology. At far left is Janusz Piechna, MSU visiting associate professor from Warsaw.

The DOE visitors also heard from R. Mark Worden, MSU professor of chemical engineering and materials science, as he presented updates on a project funded by ARPA-E. Worden is part of a group receiving $1.7 million to build a reactor system for Ralstonia eutropha, a bacterium that scientists aim to engineer to metabolize hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce isobutanol, a fuel that can be used as a replacement for gasoline.