The Early Years
In 1946, in a metal shack located in the undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Laboratory, Phil Myers and Otto Uyehara developed methods and instrumentation to measure the time-resolved temperature history of gas mixtures in combustion cylinders. Recognition of this seminal work lead to a 5 year, $50K grant from the UW Graduate School to support the Internal Combustion Engine Laboratory, and use of a “war surplus” building east of ME, i.e., T25. The Laboratory was housed in T25 for many years, moving to their present location in the Engineering Research Building in 1969. By 1986, the laboratory had generated over 200 M.S. and 75 Ph.D. graduates. Their research produced new techniques for measuring particulate and end gas temperatures, diesel NO histories, surface heat flux, droplet size and velocity in sprays, and in-cylinder gas composition and velocity. Contributions to computer modeling included droplet and spray vaporization theory and models for burn rate, knock and NO formation.
The awarding of the ARO Center of Excellence grant to the UW in 1986 recognized the laboratory’s worldwide reputation for excellence in engine research. The Engine Research Center (ERC) was established in response to this award and continues its work with industry, government and academic partners to generate new knowledge and produce exceptional graduates. At that time, Professor Gary Borman was the ERC Director.
The ERC Story Continues: 1986-2007
The ERC’s vision for research, articulated with the establishment of the Center of excellence for Advanced Propulsion in 1986, was that detailed computer modeling would play a crucial role in future engine development. A similar pathway for Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) was envisioned as that experienced with thermodynamic heat release models in the previous two decades. In addition, advanced diagnostics in engines and combustion experiments, both optical and sample measurement systems, would be necessary to provide increasingly detailed validation data for models, and for heuristically exploring combustion phenomena beyond the scope of modeling efforts. To maximize the synergy of these two activities they were to be done in concert at the same physical location.
The ERC has been highly successful in meeting this vision and has pioneered the integration of detailed engine combustion phenomena into CFD codes, validating these models with engine data, and disseminating the models to every major engine industry in the US. The current trend of using CFD as a development tool for today’s engines is practiced by every major engine industry in the world. ERC activities laid some of the ground work for this development. University-based research allows the pursuit of longer-range research perspectives, and the production of highly trained manpower, working at the forefront of engine technology. With the help of the DOD and industry funding, the ERC has evolved into a National resource in the areas of internal combustion engine processes and power systems, capable of providing expert advice and counsel to industry, regulatory agencies, the military, and to the National Academies.
A new emphasis on emissions reduction has heightened industry/university cooperation as an adjunct to the traditional federal support of fundamental engine research. Industry funding at the ERC has grown and provides essential support and guidance for future research priorities. The emphasis on cross institutional efforts among peer research universities further defines the path for engine research in the future. The ERC is well positioned to capitalize on these opportunities for continuing the advancement of knowledge and practice in engine efficiency, power and emissions.