Combustion Technology and Alternative Fuels

The UCI Combustion Laboratory (UCICL) is a leading research organization that is working to advance understanding and implications for the use of gaseous and liquid alternative fuels in combustion systems. The UCICL has developed a unique suite of capabilities that allow research at levels ranging from basic science to practical application. These include the capability to operate practical combustion systems, including small gas turbine engines, boilers, and appliances on simulated fuels that are expected to play an increasing role in our future power generation, industrial processes, and transportation needs. Supporting science comes from application of laser diagnostics to appropriate model combustion systems at pressures up to 15 atm with full inlet air preheat and detailed computational fluid dynamic and chemical kinetic modeling. Key characteristics such as ignition delay, flame speeds, pollutant formation chemistry, atomization and evaporation (in the case of liquid fuels) are needed to understand how these fuels may impact the environment and/or combustion systems that use them. The impacts can include changes in pollutant emissions, as well as operational issues such as flashback, changes in heat transfer, static and dynamic stability, and overall fuel systems and components.

Fuel Cell / Gas Turbine Hybrid Technology

The National Fuel Cell Research Center (NFCRC) provides international leadership in fuel cell/gas turbine (FC/GT) hybrid technology: the integration of a conventional heat engine with emerging advanced fuel cell technology that synergistically gives rise to an unusually high fuel-to-electricity conversion efficiency. The NFCRC (1) has developed and continues to apply fundamental thermodynamic and dynamic models for the analyses and design of advanced systems from those suitable for distributed generation (1 megawatt to 50 megawatts) to those designed for central power generation (100 to 1,000 megawatts), (2) installed and operated the world’s first proof-of-concept hybrid (220 kW) in collaboration with Southern California Edison and Siemens Westinghouse (now Siemens Energy), (3) conducts research to optimize the FC/GT integration in collaboration with industry, the Department of Energy, and the California Energy Commission, and (4) hosts the International Colloquium on Environmentally Preferred Advanced Power Generation (ICEPAG), an annual international conference organized with the Department of Energy and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers that highlights hybrid technology in collaboration with the United Nations and the European Union.

Sustainable Energy and Transportation Technology

The Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) is engaged in research at the interface of electrical power generation and transportation, and the development of systems and models for the integration of renewable technologies that produce a reliable and sustainable source of energy at the community scale. The generation and utilization of biomass gas as a fuel for both power generation and transportation is integral to the research in combination with energy storage and dynamic response of fueled power generators to buffer the diurnal and instantaneous intermittency associated with wind and solar resources. The development and utilization of smart grid technology at the four levels of application, from consumer demand control to electric vehicle charging to central plant and grid management, are major foci of APEP in collaboration with the California Institute for Telecommuncations and Information Technology, the Institute of Transportation Studies, and the Institute for Software Research.