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Building better engines through natural selection

MADISON - Could Charles Darwin's rules of evolution help engineers design high-performance engines of the future?

Computer models developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are doing just that, by using genetic algorithms to simultaneously increase fuel efficiency and reduce pollution.

Peter Senecal, a post-doctorate engineer at UW-Madison, created the computer models to help sort through literally billions of combinations of factors that determine engine performance - a task too enormous for conventional computer simulations.

Senecal says the most important advance is in improving pollution emissions without sacrificing fuel efficiency, and vice versa. Normally, engine designers who concentrate on solving one problem end up with major tradeoffs in the other.

The results to date have been dramatic. Using a Silicon Graphics supercomputer at UW-Madison's Engine Research Center, Senecal created a diesel engine design that reduces nitric oxide emissions by three-fold and soot emissions by 50 percent over the best available technology. At the same time, the model reduced fuel consumption by 15 percent.

Six engine performance measures were studied, including fuel injection timing, injection pressure, and amount of exhaust recirculation. The simulation was then reproduced experimentally in a real diesel engine housed at the ERC. "We found that the agreement was excellent between what was measured in the lab engine and what the computer predicted," Senecal says.

Senecal's research will be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Engine Research. He will also give an invited presentation Wednesday, June 21, to the Society of Automotive Engineers international meeting in Paris.

His work also is turning heads in the engine manufacturing industry, which faces major new federal pollution control mandates by the year 2002. Caterpillar Inc., a Peoria-based manufacturer of diesel engines for trucks and he
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Contact: Peter Senecal
senecal@erc.wisc.edu
608-265-9469
University of Wisconsin-Madison
13-Jun-2000


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