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SwRI launches second heavy-duty gasoline engine consortium

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) will launch its second cooperative research program aimed at developing a high-efficiency gasoline engine for both the light-duty automotive and medium-duty engine markets. The four-year effort will expand on earlier efforts to improve gasoline engine technology for future emissions and fuel economy requirements.

The first HEDGE (High-Efficiency, Dilute Gasoline Engine) consortium focused on high levels of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) combined with supporting technologies such as high-energy ignition and advanced boosting systems to develop strategies for high efficiency.

EGR levels of up to 50 percent are the key element in the development of an aggressive knock mitigation strategy. “That showed we could significantly improve gasoline engine performance and efficiency,” said Terry Alger, manager of the Advanced Combustion and Emissions Section in SwRI’s Engine, Emissions and Vehicle Research Division. “Not only were we able to decrease fuel consumption, but we were able to lower emissions significantly. Our HEDGE engine fuel consumption is roughly the same as a modern diesel engine but with much lower emissions.”

HEDGE II consortium members are drawn from members of the transportation industry in Asia, Europe and the United States. The members represent a broad industry cross section, including light, heavy-duty and off-road engine manufacturers, component suppliers and oil and fuel companies. The consortium will seek to extend the fuel efficiency and performance gains from HEDGE I and develop supporting technologies for high efficiency, including ignition technology, air handling systems and other hardware to address new combustion concepts for highly dilute gasoline engines. Participants will select the consortium work from a number of projects. Institute engineers and scientists recommend areas of interest based on SwRI’s extensive automotive-related experience and on work initiated in the Institute’s internal research program.

The projects will continue work undertaken in the first HEDGE consortium, with high levels of EGR again playing a prime role in developing an aggressive knock mitigation strategy.

“We will continue to develop these concepts that were initiated in the first HEDGE program and further develop the supporting technologies to implement this strategy in modern engines,” Alger said. Consortium members also will look at advanced turbocharging systems and the effects of hydrogen and biofuels. “Many of the concepts that we have developed, you will probably see in production in the next few years,” Alger added.

Contact Alger at (210) 522-5505 or

Innovative avionics enable search for habitable planets

The search for habitable planets continues with the March 6 launch of the Kepler spacecraft, the latest in NASA’s series of low-cost, highly focused Discovery missions. Kepler, built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., includes redundant avionics systems designed and built by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to help guide and control the spacecraft as it stares deep into space, watching for planets orbiting stars.

SwRI’s avionics suite is equipped to control spacecraft attitude, thermal management and power distribution. SwRI also produced the emergency mode spacecraft computer and a redundant command and telemetry system for spacecraft-to-ground communications. With Kepler’s launch, SwRI maintains a track record of more than 50 spacecraft system launches with no on-orbit failures.

The Kepler mission is set to determine the number of Earth-like planets in the galaxy by looking for planets in the “habitable zone” around stars. Earth maintains an orbit in the habitable zone around the Sun where water can maintain its liquid state, allowing the diversity of life on Earth. The spacecraft watches for tiny flickers in the brightness of a star that could indicate a planet passing in front of it.

Kepler will make hourly observations for upwards of four years in an earth-trailing, heliocentric orbit. It will observe a broad region of the summertime sky between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra using a photometer to measure the brightness of stars.

“It’s a question of focusing esources on core capabilities, which, for our organization, includes the design and manufacturing of spacecraft command and data handling systems,” said Buddy Walls, manager of Avionics Systems in the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. “Leveraging our capabilities allows spacecraft vendors to focus on the mission issues and overall spacecraft architecture without supporting yet another internal design staff.”

Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., is the home organization of the science principal investigator, and is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., is responsible for developing the Kepler flight system and supporting mission operations. For more information about the Kepler mission, visit

Contact Walls at (210) 522-3823 or

New space show highlights IBEX spacecraft’s mission of discovery

As part of its education and public outreach efforts, the story of NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission has been chronicled in a space show that premiered at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. The show also is being distributed free of charge and will be in planetaria worldwide.

“IBEX: Search for the Edge of the Solar System” details the IBEX spacecraft’s exploration of the outer solar system using energetic neutral atom (ENA) imaging to create the first global maps of interactions between the million-mile-per-hour solar wind and the low-density material between the stars, known as the interstellar medium. Using these data, researchers will examine the structures and dynamics of the outer heliosphere and address a serious challenge facing manned exploration by studying the region that shields Earth from the majority of galactic cosmic ray radiation.

“The data so far are really fascinating with clear spatial variations in both the fluxes and energies of the neutral atoms traveling in from the edge of the solar system. We’ll have much to tell later this summer following the completion of the first all-sky map,” said IBEX Principal Investigator Dr. David McComas, assistant vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

IBEX is the latest in NASA’s series of low-cost, rapidly developed Small Explorers spacecraft. The mission was developed by Southwest Research Institute with a national and international team of partners. The Goddard Space Flight Center manages the Explorers Program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The Adler Planetarium leads the mission’s education and public outreach efforts.

For show times and ticket information, visit or call (312) 922-STAR. More information on the IBEX mission is available at

Contact McComas at (210) 522-5983 or

Brunner receives SAE’s Forest R. McFarland Award

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has presented its Forest R. McFarland Award to J. Kevin Brunner, a staff engineer in the Fuel Performance Evaluations Section of the Fuels and Lubricants Research Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). Brunner is a 2008 recipient of the award, established to honor the late Forest R. McFarland for his many contributions to SAE.

The award, given for outstanding contributions to the SAE Engineering Meetings Board (EMB), recognizes Brunner’s contributions to the planning, development and dissemination of technical information through technical meetings, conferences and professional development programs. Brunner’s service of more than 15 years focuses on the Powertrain Fuels and Lubricants Activity, where he provided reviews of papers and successfully administered the mediation of several controversial issues.

Brunner came to SwRI in 1988. The co-author of several SAE papers, Brunner holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University- Kingsville. He is a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, American Society for Testing and Materials and Tau Beta Pi.

Contact Brunner at (210) 522-3579 or

Phillips receives AGU’s Whipple Award

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) presented its 2008 Planetary Sciences Section Whipple Award to Dr. Roger Phillips, an Institute scientist in SwRI’s Science Directorate in Boulder, Colo., a part of the Space Science and Engineering Division. Phillips is the eleventh recipient of the award, established to honor Fred Whipple, an astronomer most noted for his work on comets.

The award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions in the field of planetary science. Phillips was recognized for his research in terrestrial planet geophysics. He gave the Whipple Lecture at the San Francisco AGU meeting in December 2008.

Phillips came to SwRI in 2007 from Washington University in St. Louis, where he was a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and director of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences. Phillips is a generalist in planetary evolution and a specialist in potential fields, continuum mechanics and radar. Prior to his academic career, he served as a senior scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and as director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute. Phillips has been a member of numerous national committees, including those affiliated with NASA and the National Academy of Sciences.

Phillips holds an undergraduate degree in geological engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He has been the author or co-author of more than 170 papers.

Contact Phillips at (303) 546-9670 or

Published in the Spring 2009 issue of Technology Today®, published by Southwest Research Institute. For more information, contact Joe Fohn.

Spring 2009 Technology Today
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