Caterpillar, Argonne undertake cooperative virtual engine design, control project

By Jared SagoffJune 30, 2014

ARGONNE, Ill ― Internal combustion engines are poised for dramatic breakthroughs in improving efficiency with lower emissions, thanks in part to low-temperature combustion regimes. Such regimes show great efficiency and emissions potential, but they present optimization and control challenges that must be addressed before they enter the engine mainstream.

Caterpillar Inc. (Cat), Peoria, Ill., recognizing that we are entering an age of high-fidelity engine modeling, turned to U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and its Virtual Engine Research Institute and Fuels Initiative (VERIFI), where experts are developing new engine combustion models that incorporate accurate descriptions of two-phase flows, chemistry, transport phenomena and device geometries to provide predictive simulations of engine and fuel performance. Cat and Argonne have entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) along with Convergent Science, Inc., Madison, Wis., to further explore ways to predict how things work in diesel engine performance and emissions before any experimental work is conducted. This is the first such CRADA undertaken by VERIFI since its inception this spring.

Cat anticipates that simulations developed by VERIFI’s researchers will reduce the time and cost of the design cycle for new engines, allow the rapid adaptation of fuels from new sources and lead to substantial increases in fuel economy while meeting future emissions standards. “Working with Argonne researchers will provide us access to their high-performance computing facilities and expertise in spray and combustion modeling that will improve our simulation practices at Caterpillar,” said Marcus Weber, team leader at Caterpillar.

Convergent Science is a world leader in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software development. The company’s flagship product, CONVERGE™, is used for CFD simulations in many industries. The staff at Convergent Science are experts in CFD simulations, numerical methods, model development and implementation and were instrumental in adapting high-performance computing practices in the CONVERGE code.

VERIFI applies state-of-the-art tools in high-performance computing, combustion chemistry, CFD, and experimental validation techniques to develop high-fidelity, three-dimensional, end-to-end, combustion engine simulation/visualization and fuel simulation. Advances in high-performance computing enable VERIFI researchers to run engine simulations in parallel on thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of processors. While efficient scaling of engine simulations to such massively parallel machines remains a significant challenge, such calculations will ultimately allow not only the rapid engineering of specific engine designs, fuels and operation conditions, but also allow their optimization.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.  DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.  For more information, please visit

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