The Combustion Energy Frontier Research Center (CEFRC) was established by the US Department of Energy (DOE) in August 2009 as one of the 46 new centers around the country dedicated to addressing the pressing issues of energy sustainability, energy security, and climate change. The CEFRC, funded at $20 million over 5 years and directed by Professor Chung K. Law of Princeton University, focuses on the combustion of fossil and alternative fuels to produce heat and power. The research team is led by 15 of the nation’s leading combustion scientists from seven academic institutions and two national laboratories.
Mission Statement and Goal
The overarching goal of the CEFRC is:
“The development of a validated, predictive, multi-scale combustion modeling capability to optimize the design and operation of evolving fuels in advanced engines for transportation applications.”
In identifying this goal, it is recognized that drastic changes in the fuel constituents and operational characteristics of energy conversion devices are needed over the next few decades as the world transitions away from petroleum-derived transportation fuels. Conventional empirical approaches to developing new engines and certifying new fuels have only led to incremental improvements, and as such they cannot meet these enormous challenges in a timely, cost-effective manner. Achieving the required high rate of innovation will require computer-aided design, as is currently used to design the aerodynamically efficient wings of airplanes and the molecules in ozone-friendly refrigerants. The diversity of alternative fuels, including biomass-derived fuels, and the corresponding variation in their physical and chemical properties, coupled with simultaneous changes in energy conversion device design/control strategies needed to improve efficiency and reduce emissions, pose immense technical challenges. These challenges are particularly daunting since energy conversion efficiencies and exhaust emissions are governed by coupled chemical and transport processes at multiple length scales ranging from electron excitation to molecular rearrangements to nanoscale particulate formation to turbulent fuel/air mixing. Fortunately, recent advances in quantum chemistry, chemical kinetics, reactive flow simulation, high-performance computing, and experimental diagnostics suggest that first-principles-based predictive tools for optimum integration of energy conversion/control methodologies and new fuel compositions are possible. The task is monumentally complex and demanding, requiring the coordinated effort of many researchers in order to ensure that research across all of the multi-scale endeavors is properly integrated.