HOUGHTON – The auto industry tends to be fiercely competitive.  So what would bring multiple companies together on research projects?  How about the chance to direct the nature of the research and having access to the engineers, scientists and students doing it—and the final results? That’s what Michigan Technological University’s new Light Duty Engine Consortium is offering, and three industry leaders have been quick to jump on board.

The consortium, part of the Advanced Power Systems Research Center at Michigan Tech, was launched late last year and has identified its first year’s projects. General Motors, FCA US and BorgWarner are the initial industry partners.

“The idea was to get competitors to participate, so we needed to work on projects that would be mutually beneficial without giving anyone a competitive edge,” explains Jeff Naber, consortium director and principal investigator.  Naber is director of the APSRC and the Ron & Elaine Starr Professor in Energy Systems in Michigan Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

Asking Industry, What Do You Need?

He and Jeremy Worm, a research engineer and technical coordinator of the consortium, turned straight to the source. They asked auto industry leaders what kind of research they most wanted. It turned out they wanted what Naber calls “hard deliverables”—research results—and they wanted input into the choice of projects.

“They didn’t want to join a research consortium and not have a say in what projects were being addressed,” says Worm.  “They wanted research results that directly addressed their needs.”

The companies had no dearth of suggestions. They proposed more than 40 projects, which Naber, Worm and the rest of the interdisciplinary faculty and staff of the APSRC helped them winnow down to five projects to address in the first year.

This year, the consortium is working on:

  • Advanced boosted engine cycle.
  • Assessment of instrumentation used for combustion analysis.
  • Advanced ignition studies.
  • How gasses move around in the cylinder in high-flow ignition systems.
  • Developing best practices for cylinder pressure data analysis.

Next year, the consortium will choose a new group of industry-proposed projects based on needs of the members at that time.

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