Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Combustion engineering

The addressing of engineering challenges related to combustion dynamics through multi-scale modelling and experimental approaches.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This area encompasses the addressing of engineering challenges related to combustion dynamics through both multi-scale modelling and experimental approaches. Activities falling within this research area will contribute to the advanced propulsion systems of the future, for example.

This is a mature research area, largely supported through collaborations within the aerospace and automotive sectors. This relationship is key to delivering efficient combustion modes to address current technological challenges, in a field where incremental changes can make a big difference.

Our role in this landscape will be to support research addressing longer term combustion challenges focused on lowering emissions and improving efficiency within a whole-systems context.

We aim to have worked with our innovation partners (for example the Aerospace Technology Institute and the Automotive Council) to deliver an effective and co-ordinated approach to the next generation of propulsion technologies where combustion plays a core role. This will require greater interdisciplinary working across relevant research areas.

Another aim is for the community to continue to work with industry and other academic communities to identify and address combustion research within a whole-systems approach. This should be done while also addressing the need to reduce carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and acoustic emissions from combustion-based propulsion modes.

A community that tackles combustion challenges from a whole-systems perspective is a third goal. It will address other engineering challenges in reducing emissions through greater integration with associated areas (for example control engineering or electrical motors and drives and electromagnetics).

The experimental and computational communities should continue to work together and integrate further to accelerate translation through to novel propulsion modes.

Finally we want to see the academic community working together to ensure appropriate sharing of equipment and access to facilities.

Why we're doing it

There are a number of combustion research groups throughout the UK, supported through a range of funding. There are also a number of research groups with leading expertise in fuel injection, engines for hybrid electric vehicles and integrated engine design and development. Equally, UK research into novel thermo-cycles has been noted as having very big potential in the long term.

Advanced propulsion technologies play a role in supporting future competitiveness in the UK aerospace and automotive markets. Capturing a unique engineering capability in combustion will aid international competitiveness and reduce operational costs through better fuel efficiency. The broad evidence base around future challenges faced by the internal combustion engine and gas turbines points to a need for greater integration with more electric transportation modes.

Environmental performance targets highlight the need to reduce emissions from combustion. As part of the Flightpath 2050 agreement, the aerospace sector has committed to achieving a reduction in nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide emissions and perceived noise.

The supply of skilled graduates is currently enhanced through specific centres for doctoral training (CDT) which align with this research area, specifically gas turbine aerodynamics and fluid dynamics across scales. Industry engagement is high and continues to nurture talent.

The National Centre for Combustion and Aerothermal Technology, a partnership between government, industry and universities, will enable access to state-of-the-art facilities and so lead to greater acceleration of impact arising from fundamental combustion engineering research.

Access to high performance computing provision, both locally and nationally, is important for this research area. There is a strong computational community which benefits through access to HPC capacity such as Academic Research Computing High End Resource (ARCHER).

Combustion Engineering has strong links to the research areas Fluid Dynamics and Aerodynamics, Continuum Mechanics, Chemical Reaction Dynamics, and Bioenergy. Integration with these is vital to ensure that the longer term challenges can be addressed. There are further links to materials engineering portfolios, Performance and Inspection of Mechanical Structures and Systems, Control Engineering, Electrical Motors and Drives and Electromagnetics, Sensors and Instrumentation, and Particle Technology – these are important research areas for novel integrated propulsion systems.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Combustion Engineering.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Nicola McDougal, Portfolio Manager, Engineering

Telephone: 07562 306906


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