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Iowa State engineer works to clean and improve engine performance

AMES, Iowa The five engines in Song-Charng Kong's Iowa State University laboratory have come a long way since Karl Benz patented a two-stroke internal combustion engine in 1879.

There are fuel injectors and turbochargers and electrical controls. There's more horsepower, better efficiency, cleaner burning and greater reliability.

But Kong with the help of 15 graduate students and all kinds of sensors recording engine cylinder pressure, energy release and exhaust emissions is looking for even more.

Kong, an Iowa State assistant professor of mechanical engineering who keeps a piston by his office computer, is studying engines with the goal of reducing emissions and improving efficiency.

"There is still a lot of work to be done to improve engine performance," Kong said. "All of this work will lead to incremental improvements."

And those small improvements can add up when you consider there are more than 250 million registered vehicles on U.S. highways, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Kong and his students are working on a lot of combustion projects in the lab: They're studying diesel engines with the goal of reducing emissions. They're developing a computer model of a gasoline engine that will make it much easier and faster to research and develop new engine technologies. They're figuring out how to optimize new technologies such as multiple fuel injections per combustion cycle.

They're working with Terry Meyer, an Iowa State assistant professor of mechanical engineering, to use high-speed, laser-based sensors that can record images of injection sprays and combustion inside a cylinder. That can give researchers insights into combustion characteristics and ideas for improvements.

They're also studying how plastics dissolved in biodiesel affect engine performance. Biodiesel acts as a solvent on certain plastics and that has Kong checking to see if some waste pl

Contact: Song-Charng Kong
Iowa State University

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