24 September 2019

Electrical energy allows more efficient combustion and reduces emissions

Adding just a tad of electrical energy can enable industry to increase its combustion efficiency at the same time as atmospheric emissions are reduced. In a joint project with industry, FOI is researching how engine combustion processes can be more stable.

Effect 2-forskare

Researchers Andreas Ehn (Lund University), Mattias Elfsberg (FOI) and Arne Irewall (Siemens Turbomachinery) in one of Siemens’ laboratories in Finspång, where they used microwave energy to influence the combustion process in a burner. Photo: Tomas Hurtig/FOI.

Today, every industry is required to be more energy-efficient and reduce its emissions. Since 2012, the Swedish Energy Agency has been financing EFFECT, a project that investigates whether electrical stimulation can facilitate the combustion sequence in engines.

“In all engines, there is a flame that burns fuel in gas or fluid form. By applying a tiny amount of electrical energy to the flame, it can be made to burn more efficiently,” explains Christer Fureby, Research Director in FOI’s Division of Defence and Security, Systems and Technology.

The purpose of the project is to explore how the electrical energy can be led into the flame as efficiently as possible and what happens within it.

“We want to find out how we can best help industry to increase the combustion efficiency and at the same time reduce emissions,” says Christer Fureby.

Reduced energy consumption

The project, which is now in its second phase, will continue until 2020. In addition to FOI, the participants include the Division of Combustion Physics, at Lund University, along with Siemens Turbomachinery AB and SSAB.

For Siemens, which produces among other things gas turbines for power generation, an improved combustion sequence means that production requires less energy consumption. The same applies to SSAB, which hot-rolls steel for different types of industry.

“That requires enormous amounts of energy, which is why SSAB wants to see if this is a way to heat the steel more efficiently, at the same time as emissions are reduced. We have succeeded in showing that it’s possible to stabilise the flames with electrical energy, when normally they’d be starting to flutter or become extremely sooty,” says Christer Fureby.

Simulations of combustion sequences is one of FOI’s many areas of expertise. For some time now, FOI has also been participating in the development of a high-speed aircraft, where the experience from EFFECT may be useful.