Consortium to Study Fuel Spray Injections Using Simulation and Physical Testing

Sandia National Laboratories will develop fuel injector nozzle flow models.

Lyle Pickett of the Spray Combustion Consortium examining a fuel injector with the nozzle modified for optical access. (Image courtesy of Dino Vournas.)

Lyle Pickett of the Spray Combustion Consortium examining a fuel injector with the nozzle modified for optical access. (Image courtesy of Dino Vournas.)

Sandia National Laboratories has formed a three-year industry-funded consortium to develop predictive models for a better understanding of fuel injection. The Spray Combustion Consortium includes participants from industry, software vendors and national laboratories, who are working toward the ultimate pursuit of developing affordable fuel-efficient engines.


Predictive Spray Modeling

A better understanding of fuel sprays is critical to support the development of higher-efficiency engines. Fuel sprays affect fuel-air mixing, combustion, and emission formation processes in the engine cylinder.

“Most pathways to higher engine efficiency rely on fuel injection directly into the engine cylinder,” said Sandia’s lead for the consortium, Lyle Pickett. “While industry is moving toward improved direct-injection strategies, they often encounter uncertainties associated with fuel injection equipment and in-cylinder mixing driven by fuel sprays.”

These uncertainties are due to a lack of quantitative data involving nozzle flow processes, and hence limited modeling techniques. To remedy this, the Spray Combustion Consortium participants are conducting experiments to better understand fuel sprays.

The experiments will study a variety of different nozzle shapes, transparent and metal nozzles, and gasoline and diesel fuels. Using techniques like high-speed optical microscopy, X-ray radiography and phase contrastimaging, the experiments aim to yield an understanding of the critical physics of internal nozzle flows.

Consortium participants will also conduct detailed simulations of internal flow, cavitation, flashboiling, and liquid breakup processes. Using the experimental and simulated data, the consortium hopes to develop predictive spray models that can be used for the design and control of fuel injection equipment.

Better Engine Development

“The consortium addresses a critical need impacting the design and optimization of direct injection engines,” said Pickett. “The deliverables of the consortium will offer a distinct competitive advantage to both engine companies and software vendors.”

The consortium is made up of Sandia and Argonne National Laboratories, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Toyota Motor Corporation, Renault, Convergent Science, Cummins, Hino Motors, Isuzu and Ford Motor Company. The participants will meet on a quarterly basis to exchange information and updates.

For more research on understanding sprays, read Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Droplets.

Written by

Michael Alba

Michael is a senior editor at He covers computer hardware, design software, electronics, and more. Michael holds a degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Alberta.