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14 October 2014

Results from E4 Mistra ready for use in vehicle industry

After eight years, the E4 Mistra research programme has ended. Results have been successful: major advances have been made in purifying exhaust from diesel vehicles without boosting their fuel consumption. That the programme has broken down many barriers that usually exist between industry and academia is equally important, according to Jazaer Dawody, who has headed the work for the past year and brought it to a successful conclusion.

When E4 Mistra started in 2006, its objective was to develop more effective systems of removing harmful components of exhaust fumes from diesel vehicles. In particular, the programme sought to find methods of minimising quantities of nitrogen oxides and particles. The participants included four research groups and four companies.

Over the years, work has been carried out in four different areas of technology: thermoelectric materials for heat recovery; catalytic NOx reduction using hydrocarbons from fuel; highly efficient fuel reformation for more effective NOx reduction at low temperatures; and innovative metal filters for effective removal of particles from exhaust. Now, however, the work has ended.

‘Two years ago, we decided not to apply for a programme extension. We’ve taken big steps forward during these years, but we’re now going into a phase in which the techniques we’ve developed are going to be commercialised. This works better outside the programme form,’ says Dawody.

Particle removal and better heat recovery

Over the years, numerous ideas have been tested. But it is in particle removal and thermoelectric heat recovery, in particular, that the biggest advances have been made.

Developing the integrated thermoelectric generator in heat exchangers has engaged several partners, who have each contributed their expertise. The joint solutions have resulted in a prototype that, after further development, may be worth testing in goods vehicles. The programme has also succeeded in developing a particle filter that has can potentially reduce fuel consumption.

‘However, it will be a while before we see the new, more effective filters on the market. So cooperation is continuing between the companies and research groups who were involved in the programme. The focus is now on the remaining problems in each subsidiary area.’

Dawody also wants to emphasise the new collaborations that have started thanks to the programme.

‘Traditionally, there are high barriers between academic researchers, with their theoretical approach, and engineers working in industry, who prefer to look at problems from a technical, practical point of view. Here, we’ve succeeded well in removing these barriers and created a fruitful climate of collaboration. The fact that things have gone so well is due largely to the long time we’ve had for this programme. In short projects, the focus is only on final results.’

Researchers who break new ground

Altogether, eight doctoral students have been trained in the programme. According to Jazaer Dawody, their prospects have become considerably better than those of their colleagues who have worked only within university walls. Here, they have been immediately thrust into real projects and been able to test their ideas in companies. This experience makes them highly attractive on the labour market.

Dawody says the atmosphere in the programme has been open and tolerant: ‘In our teams, everyone has had a chance to speak. When a young academic researcher has important knowledge, the older researchers who have ties to industry have listened — and the other way round.’

At the closing seminar in June, the past few years’ experience and future challenges were discussed.

‘We didn’t talk much about individual components developed in the programme. Instead, we focused on system solutions that we were working on to achieve our project aims. We also focused on future challenges in areas like alternative fuels and hybrid solutions.’

The young PhD students on the programme were in the limelight, while older researchers held back.

‘The contact network we’ve all made, but especially the doctoral students, will bear fruit for many years. And it’s not impossible that we’ll apply to start a new programme in a few years’ time. But first we must do our utmost to take the systems we’ve developed to the market,’ Dawody concludes.

Text: Per Westergård, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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