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Sotirios Mamalis (above, left) and Benjamin Lawler (above, right) will use a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy to conduct research that will focus on utilizing onboard fuel reformation to eliminate the need for two different fuels to enable Reactivity Controlled Compression Ignition.   TATIANA GUERRA/THE STATESMAN

When someone purchases a new car, one of the most prominent characteristics that is factored into which type and brand of car to buy is fuel efficiency. Concerns about power in vehicles are rising, which highlights some of the mindsets of major funding organizations for science, such as the Department of Energy.

Researchers at Stony Brook, including professors Ben Lawler and Sotirios Mamalis from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, have received a $1 million grant to study Reactivity Controlled Compression Ignition, which is an alternative type of combustion technology for engines.

This type of combustion is limited due to its requirement for two types of fuel, gas and diesel. The research at Stony Brook will focus on modifying this process to rely on only one type of fuel—gas, diesel, or natural gas.

This type of ignition would be a process in which fuel, whichever type it may be, is reformed before going through the engine. Reformation changes the chemical composition of the fuel, so while it started as gas or diesel, what comes out after will no longer be chemically the same.

The researchers will be testing which type of fuel performs the most successfully for vehicles.

“There are a number of advanced combustion modes and they have the potential to have higher efficiency and lower emissions,” Lawler said. “So it could be a win-win. And they are essentially trying to take the advantages of the two combustion modes and merge the positive aspects of each one.”

This research is a collaborative effort between the researchers studying the reforming process at City College of New York and the researchers at Stony Brook, where Lawler will be collaborating with Mamalis.

Lawler will be studying the engines, the temperature and pressure that occur with the different types of fuels. Mamalis’ background is in computational modeling. Therefore, Lawler’s work will provide the experimental detail for the computer models that Mamalis develops. This enables the expansion of information that can be extracted from experimental work alone.

“Our role is further out, longer term, higher risk projects,” Lawler said. “And I think that’s exciting, I think we’re working on the projects that nobody else can solve. If we solve them, that’s when [vehicle manufacturing companies] would pick them up and take interest in it.”