UCICL Research Overview

The UCI Combustion Laboratory focuses on critical areas associated with addressing the conflict between energy and environment. Combustion is inherently multidisciplinary and thus the critical areas involve numerous intertwined physics and complex phenomena. The emphasis of the program is on spanning between fundamental science and the various end use applications with particular interest in improving the overall performance and sustainability of these systems.

A critical area of study is the connection of the combustion phenomena with Emissions / Operability of the end use device. Minimization of emissions of both greenhouse gases as well as pollutants is vital to facilitate future use of combustion systems in society. Operability is often compromised by strategies to reduce emissions and, as a result, phenomena impacting reaction stability, flashback, autoignition, turndown, and other operability issues are equally critical to understand.

Most practical systems require carefully designed fuel injection processes to attain high performance and low emissions. As a result, research into Fuel Injection / Mixing processes is vital in order to establish and exploit the link between the combustion process and end use performance. Fuel Injection / Mixing also play a major role in establishing excellent operability of end use devices. Extensive infrastructure is in place to facilitate study of both gas and liquid injection processes under both non-reacting and reacting conditions.

To provide the understanding of the key processes occurring within the combustion system and/or components thereof, extensive Diagnostics / Modeling tools are utilized. The former can range from exhaust pipe species quantification as well as non-intrusive in-situ methods for measuring a wide array of parameters such as gas phase velocity, species concentration, temperature, droplet size and velocity, etc are in place. High speed visualization methods are available along with numerous laser based systems. To complement the diagnostics, modeling tools such as computational fluid dynamics and chemical reactor networks are used. For all cases, statistically designed test plans result in the development of design tools that can be applied to characterize cause and effect relation between the combustion system parameters and end use performance.

To address greenhouse gas reduction, Renewable / Alternative Fuels are paramount to the mission of the program. It is critical to reduce carbon intensity of industrial and commercial end-use devices, power generation systems, and propulsive technologies. As a result, infrastructure and instrumentation is in place to prepare and evaluate both gaseous and liquid renewable fuels including biogas, renewable hydrogen, and liquid fuels synthesized from renewable feedstocks such as biomass and bio-oils.

The adaptation of alternative fuels combined with a need to generally increase temperatures and pressures to improve performance gives rise to questions regarding the interaction between the combustion effluent and the materials it encounters. Combustion can also be a means to synthesize materials as well. As a result, Materials Development / Characterization is a cornerstone of the program to study materials creation as well as their interaction with combustion products. The latter includes the influence of contaminants such as salts that might be present in air.

Sensors / Controls are becoming increasingly important as a means to ensure performance targets are met. As low emissions and operability requirements lead to a need to better control all aspects of the combustion system, advancements in sensors and control technology is needed. Combined with evolution of digital signal processing and computational speed facilitates implementation of a wide array of sensors for smart combustion systems that can alter performance in light of situations such as varying fuel composition or changes in oxidizer conditions such as humidity, temperature and density. Closed loop control of the combustion system using sensor information is a critical aspect of attaining and maintaining performance.

2000, University of California Irvine Combustion Laboratory (UCICL)
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