Where: Engines and Energy Conversion Lab (EECL), Colorado State University
What You’ll Learn: How to make a 2,300hp engine run cleaner
Job Prospects: Mechanical engineer, chemical engineer
Typical Assignment: Design a laser-ignition system for a new typeof natural-gas generator
Take it from CSU postdoc Sachin Joshi, you haven’t really seen an engine until you’ve climbed inside one. At the EECL, students retrofit industrial engines that reach two stories in height. “Students at no other university in the world work on anything near the scale we have,” says lab director and founder Bryan Willson.
One of the largest is a two-stroke, 440-horsepower combustion engine, typically used to compress natural gas and push it through underground pipes. In the lab’s 17 years, the technologies it has developed for this type of engine alone (including a now-ubiquitous fuel-injection system) have reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by an amount equivalent to taking 120 million modern cars off the highway.
Joshi and his students are now working on a 17-ton Caterpillar natural-gas-powered generator that’s capable of providing electricity for up to 1,200 homes. Utilities want to hook up the 1.8-megawatt machines to the grid in the middle of cities (to save the energy otherwise lost in transit), so they need to run clean. Caterpillar donated one to EECL. The team has already created an ignition system in which a laser travels through fiber-optic cables to optical spark plugs. It burns fuel more efficiently than the stock ignition while emitting fewer nitrogen oxides.single page
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