Automatgenererad bild.

14 May 2013

Final spurt for research on more fuel-efficient emission control

Effective emission control without a concomitant rise in fuel consumption has been the principal aim of the E4 Mistra research programme for the past seven years. One year of the programme now remains and, during this period, the new programme director Jazaer Dawody hopes that full-scale testing of the technology will be feasible.

E4 Mistra is a research programme funded by Mistra and the Swedish Energy Agency. Four research groups and four companies are involved in this programme, which began in 2006. The objective is to develop a more efficient system of purifying exhaust fumes from diesel vehicles. In particular, the aim is to devise methods of minimising quantities of nitrogen oxides and particles.  

Today, a number of exhaust aftertreatment systems are already available on the market. But they all share the disadvantage that as they reduce emissions of substances harmful to the environment and human health, fuel consumption rises and, with it, emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). The great challenge to E4 Mistra has therefore been to develop technology that enables us to fulfil aims that have hitherto been irreconcilable.

Work in several areas

To achieve this goal, the various E4 Mistra partners have worked in parallel on four different areas of technology: thermoelectric materials for heat recovery, catalytic NOx reduction using hydrocarbons from fuel, highly effective fuel reforming for improved NOx reduction at low temperatures, and innovative metal filters for effective particle separation in exhaust fumes.

Jazaer Dawody, the new programme director for E4 Mistra since May, says:
‘Right from the start, we’ve been working on particle filters, and there we’ve successfully tackled some technical challenges. In the past few years, for example, we’ve changed the geometric configuration so as to reduce the problem of ash clogging up the filter, which in turn boosts fuel consumption. On the other hand, we haven’t managed to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides further, compared with the systems we developed at the beginning of the programme period.’

Developing the new particle filter may be likened to a jigsaw puzzle in which some of the stakeholders involved have contributed different pieces. The various contributions have resulted in smaller prototypes and these have then been tested by Volvo. The next stage will be to coat the filter with catalytic material, to make the system more compact and efficient. However, it will be some time before we see the new, more efficient filters on the market.

‘When we’re done, we must expect the automotive industry to need several years before the technology can be in place in commercial vehicles,’ Dawody adds.

Broad-based support important

Development of thermoelectric materials has been a key area for E4 Mistra. The plan is to use the heat in exhaust fumes to generate electric power, explains former programme director Jonas Edvardsson.
‘We’ve developed a working concept, but a technical breakthrough is still needed before we can see the technology in vehicles. The materials to which we now have access are too expensive in relation to the energy we get from them.’

According to Jazaer Dawody, having both industrial and academic partners in the programme has been valuable. All the different groups have contributed expertise in their respective areas. This has brought about greater technical progress than would have been possible if a single business or research group had tried to solve the problems on its own.

‘During the seven years of the programme’s existence, we’ve become an ever more united team that are trying to tackle problems from numerous different perspectives. Thanks to our various angles and approaches, we’ve been able to complement one another in a way that has enriched the programme, and our collaboration has resulted in a number of synergic effects that no one could have foreseen when we started.’

Concerted efforts for final year

Before taking over as programme director for E4 Mistra Jazaer Dawody, for a couple of years, was a subproject manager in charge of system integration at Volvo. She had previously worked as a group manager at Powercell in Gothenburg, responsible for development of diesel reformer systems with a view to hydrogen gas production for fuel cells. She has a PhD and for several years, as a senior researcher at the Competence Centre for Catalysis (Kompetens¬centrum katalys, KCK) at Chalmers University of Technology, her work included developing catalytic materials for NOx reduction.

‘It’ll be very exciting to be the one to complete the programme. Much of the technological development is rolling along under its own steam right now. My task, instead, will be to ensure that all the various individual, subsidiary results are put to use. But I’m not alone: there are many of us who have worked in the programme and are keen to move development forward so that, within a few years, we can see the technology in finished products.’

If they succeed, the results may bring benefits both for individuals and for society at large, in the form of reduced concentrations of local air pollutants and lower emissions of greenhouse gases. They may also help to ensure reduced fuel consumption and a cleaner work environment for individual vehicle owners and in the logistics and forwarding sector.

Text: Per Westergård, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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