Edouard Berrocal, a researcher in combustion physics at Lund University, has been awarded one of the most prestigious grants available to young researchers: an ERC Starting Grant.
The grant is worth EUR 1.5 million and will enable him to spend the next five years investigating what happens in the crucial moment at the start of combustion when the liquid fuel is injected into the chamber and vaporises. In the long term, this research could lead to highly efficient combustion, resulting in much more environmentally friendly engines in aeroplanes, cars and power plants running on liquid fuels.
“At present, we are literally in the dark about this moment in the combustion process, because it is not possible to clearly see the transition between the liquid and the gas phase. The images are blurred owing to the large number of micrometric droplets that scatter light all around”, explained Edouard Berrocal, who will be developing a novel imaging method allowing a unique visualisation through such dense spray systems.
Using advanced laser imaging technology that he has developed, it might become possible to observe the internal structure of fuel sprays, which remains as yet unknown. This new observation would provide valuable experimental data to computational modellers, making it possible to accurately simulate the effect of different injection strategies on engine performance. This would save researchersfrom blindly fumbling their way forward in a process of trial and error to find the best way of constructing and operating injectors; e.g. deciding on the internal geometry of the injector, the size of the orifice and the pressure of injection.
“We know that there are multiple technical changes regarding the injection of liquid fuels that could considerably reduce fuel consumption, but we don’t know which ones are best depending on the engine design and the fuel used. By better understanding how fuel sprays are formed and evaporate, one could develop ‘smart fuel injection systems’ which would adapt to the needs of the moment, such as fuel type, driving speed and temperature conditions”, said Edouard Berrocal.
The new funding means that Edouard Berrocal will be able to establish his own research group. In the new year he will be appointing two doctoral students and a postdoctoral fellow.
ERC Starting Grants are awarded to top young researchers with the potential to become international research leaders in their field. The funding is highly prestigious and competition for it is fierce (it is open to applicants from all over the world who are based at a research institution in the EU). Applicants are assessed on the basis of both their project plan and their CV. The assessment process takes place in two stages, with stage 2 including an interview in Brussels. This year, the European Research Council has awarded approximately 320 ERC Starting Grants.
For more information, see the EU website http://erc.europa.eu/starting-grants.