For more than 50 years, the U.S. Army TARDEC Fuels and Lubricants Research Facility (TFLRF) at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) has provided state-of-the-art research, development and engineering services for the U.S. Army’s fuels and lubricants needs. The government-owned contractor-operated (GOCO) facility provides technical support services and helps to develop and maintain the Army’s specifications for fluids used in ground equipment. TFLRF functions as an extension of the U.S. Army Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) Petroleum and Water Business Area in Warren, Mich. Operated by the Fuels and Lubricants Research Division on the grounds of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, the facility reports to the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren, Mich.
The U.S. Army built the facility at SwRI as a stand-alone laboratory complex with capabilities for engine testing and analytical chemistry experiments. The Armed Services’ need for engineering support in fuels and lubricants for their growing fleet of military vehicles and related ground support equipment was the impetus for establishing the facility. The capabilities parallel, on a smaller scale, the commercial capabilities available at SwRI. As the partnership between the Army and SwRI evolved, the Army increasingly has depended on the Institute’s commercial facilities for the more standardized evaluations, and the TFLRF has become more focused on custom projects.
The facility is a unique resource where a highly trained and experienced staff perform integrated fuels, lubricants and engine systems research and development programs involving combustion, performance characterization, engine cleanliness, vulnerability assessments and tribology. Augmented by the Institute’s diverse workforce of more than 3,300 and its facilities, which includes more than 2 million square feet of laboratories and offices on more than 1,200 acres, TFLRF’s capabilities range from fundamental investigations to field-validating testing and rapid response problem solving.
Efforts early on by the TFLRF led to changes and developments of new procedures and requirements subsequently adopted by commercial industry. Those initial results from the partnership included:
More recent projects include:
Turbine Combustion Facility
TFLRF houses a unique turbine combustion capability that has been sized around the Army T-63 gas turbine engine. This facility:
An outgrowth from the combustor work is a series of benchscale facilities for assessing the formation of fuel-derived deposits on turbine engine atomizers and other fuel system components. Because fuel-derived deposits are the leading cause of turbine engine overhaul, the facility has developed a number of techniques to assess the propensity of fuels to form deposits and to evaluate engine hardware for deposition tendencies. In addition to gasoline engine test stands, the TFLRF houses a number of diesel fuel injection system test stands to evaluate the impact of the following on injection system wear:
Lubricity and Filtration Studies on Diesel Systems
Using a number of bench-wear test devices as well as full-scale engine hardware, the laboratory is continuing to conduct research on fuel lubricity and other fuel issues affecting diesel fuel injection system durability. Fluid filtration is becoming increasingly critical to engine durability as a result of high-pressure injection systems. Filtration for both ground and aviation vehicle systems is particularly critical for military operations in high dust environments. The TFLRF facility maintains capabilities for assessing the performance of fuel filters and water separators, including an SwRI-owned facility for assessing pipeline scale filtration performance.
In the area of fluids filtration, capabilities include:
In addition, projects in the following areas can be conducted:
In fuels, lubricants and fluids technology, TFLRF offers the following strengths:
Filtration and environmental testing capabilities include:
TFLRF provides research, development and testing services in the areas of filtration, contamination sensitivity assessment, and real-time wear and oil consumption measurement in operating engines and mechanical systems. TFLRF also performs evaluations of automotive and heavy-duty engine and vehicle components and systems, including testing, analysis and design, with emphasis on real-world operation and real-life laboratory simulation.
Filtration and fine particle technology capabilities include:
TFLRF operates in more than 26,000 square feet of office and laboratory space, including 12 automated test cells dedicated to fuel contamination research and testing. Of these cells, nine are dedicated to gasoline/flexible fuel testing, two to diesel testing and one to hybrid fuel cell testing. Using an automated fluid heating and cooling system, test temperatures can be varied from -40 to 80 degrees C (-40 to 176 degrees F). Fuel system and contamination research capabilities include:
While the TFLRF still predominantly supports the U.S. Army, staff members are involved in a variety of projects to support all U.S. military services and other government agencies such as the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and other commercial clients.
This brochure was published in September 2009. For more information about the U.S. Army TARDEC Fuels and Lubricants Research, contact Gary B. Bessee, Phone (210) 522-6941, Fax (210) 522-5270, Fuels and Lubricants Research Division, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510.