Engineering at the University of Brighton

Simon Brewster and Professor Rob Morgan

FPT Industrial buys Brighton’s super-clean engine technology

FPT Industrial, brand of CNH Industrial dedicated to the design, production and sale of powertrains for on and off-road vehicles, marine and power generation applications, has purchased Dolphin N2 and its revolutionary recuperated split-cycle engine – developed by scientists and engineers at the University of Brighton and Ricardo.

The engine is being hailed as extremely efficient, making it more comparable to a fuel cell than to a traditional engine. It also produces near-zero emissions of harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) – a world first that has been pioneered by the University.

To enable the sale, the technology was developed and proven in an InnovateUK-funded consortium project called StepCO2, with Dolphin N2, a company set up by Ricardo to bring the technology to market, Ricardo, University of Brighton, University of Sheffield, and heat exchange specialist Hiflux.

Professor Rob Morgan The project is the latest phase of pioneering research at the University, which has been led for the past six years by Professor Rob Morgan, Professor of Thermal Propulsion Systems at the University’s Advanced Engineering Centre (AEC) in Moulsecoomb, Brighton.

Professor Morgan said: “I’m delighted to see our research making a direct and positive impact which will lead to far less pollution being emitted by heavy-duty vehicles and, perhaps, by other transport modes including diesel trains and ships.

“This is the cleanest, high-efficiency, engine that exists in the public domain and the only one in the world at the moment is in our lab. And this is by no means just a technology to use less fossil fuels – it has enormous potential as a clean device using sustainable fuels made from everyday wastes.” The new engine was developed in partnership with Shoreham-based Ricardo, the global engineering, strategic, and environmental consultancy and specialist and Dolphin N2. Professor Debra Humphris, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “This is tremendous news for Professor Morgan and his colleagues, the University, for our partners Ricardo, Dolphin N2, and for society as a whole.

“Reducing carbon and other poisonous gas emissions is essential if we are to cut air pollution and help tackle climate change. And this breakthrough dovetails with the University’s decision to join other institutions and organisations in declaring a climate emergency and with our ambition to become carbon neutral.

“It also highlights the state-of-the-art research being undertaken throughout our University and particularly at our Advanced Engineering Centre. This world-class specialist research and teaching facility with its advanced laboratories is working with long-term industry partners on pioneering technologies that will bring more significant benefits to society.”

The invention is seen as one of the most significant advances in engine design in years. Simon Brewster, CEO of Dolphin N2, said: “FPT Industrial is the ideal partner to take this revolutionary technology to market. We knew the technology had world-leading efficiency, but it was the research at Brighton that also showed incredibly low levels of NOx emissions.

“Without this discovery, the technology could still be seen as a dirty engine – with it, it can compete side-by-side with so-called zero emission power, except that our engine is cheaper of course.”

Annalisa Stupenengo, CEO of FPT Industrial, a brand of CNH Industrial, said: “The powertrain industry increasingly needs evolution in terms of efficiency and respect to the environment, and this agreement will enable us to provide ultra-efficient and ultra-low emissions solutions, in the beginning focused on heavy-duty applications.

“The co-joined development of this disruptive technology, to join soon our portfolio, will lead a faster shift from the concept to a commercial level. This acquisition complements our alternative propulsion investments, which are part both of our mission as a sustainable solution provider and of our goal to be a full-line player with the most advanced technologies in all industrial fields.”

Professor Morgan, from the University’s School of Computing, Engineering & Maths, said the new technology, available in two variants called “ThermoPower” and ‘CryoPower’, is expected to significantly reduce the amount of fuel consumed: “It will be suitable for heavy duty vehicles including long-haul trucks, stationary power, off-highway equipment and self-powered multi-mode railway traction, engines that are, at present, unsuitable for battery-electric propulsion.

“Unlike with cars, a long-haul truck would need to use a sizeable proportion of its cargo space to house the number of batteries needed to propel the truck if it were electrified.”

Rob Morgan with the Cryopower engineHe explained how the new engine works and stressed that the technology is likely to save operators many thousands of pounds in reduced fuel costs: “The Recuperated Split Cycle process combines the recovery of otherwise wasted exhaust heat with a complete re-design of the engine’s core four-stroke principle, splitting the cold and hot parts of the cycle. We have far more control over both efficiency and emissions than any other type of engine”.

Professor Morgan said the new engine produces extremely low emissions “making pollution and air-quality issues virtually disappear”. He said: “Test results, carried out as part of the StepCO2 programme, have shown that we have a near-zero emissions capability.”

The Recuperated Split Cycle was originally conceived as a means of enabling otherwise unachievable improvements in fuel economy and reduced CO2, targeted at achieving at least 60% brake thermal efficiency. Professor Morgan said early development work carried out on the test rig at the University not only validated this potential but also demonstrated highly-impressive low-NOx emissions, credentials of the unique combustion process.

He said: “Our research has taken a completely new approach to the design of the combustion system, focusing on achieving the conditions for ultra-low emissions. This enabled us to unpick the ‘normal’ way of designing an engine and to come up with a different set of answers.

“Our split-cycle engine combines the findings of our high efficiency research, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, with our low emissions research ideas. On the test bed, we are getting engine out emission much lower than a fully optimised modern truck. With some after-treatment, you would get to very low-level emissions that are actually cleaner than the air going into the engine.” The StepCO2 project was developed through a partnership with Ricardo, Hiflux Ltd, and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, based at the University of Sheffield. The University of Brighton’s research has been underpinned with funding from Innovate UK and the European and Physical Sciences Research Council.

For more on Professor Morgan, see his professional profile and for information on Dolphin N2 and the Recuperated Split Cycle Engine, visit the page.

To find out more about studying engineering at Brighton visit the subject page.

Laura Ruby • February 12, 2020

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