Advanced science.  Applied technology.


Aluminum Head Evaluation, Analysis, & Durability (AHEAD) Consortium


Worldwide fuel economy and greenhouse gas regulations are driving the need for weight reduction in automotive powertrains. Aluminum has been a common material used for many years to produce engine components, including cylinder heads, pistons and blocks. Recent trends to downsize engines have increased specific output, increasing cylinder pressures and temperatures. Current aluminum materials and component designs are being pushed to their fatigue and transient response limits.

To achieve further weight reduction and increase durability, the technologies used to design and produce these parts will need to improve. SwRI is forming a consortium of companies involved in the production of aluminum powertrain components to pool resources and improve state-of-the-art aluminum component technologies. The four-year consortium is known as AHEAD (Aluminum Head Evaluation, Analysis and Durability).

Initially the focus will be on aluminum cylinder heads used for both gasoline and diesel engines. Potential technology areas of concentration include, but are not limited to advances in:

  • Aluminum alloy materials for high temperature resistance
  • Casting processes
  • Structural design
  • Analysis procedures
  • Material characterization
  • Measurement and prediction of residual stresses

SwRI has a history of more than 20 years in forming and running highly successful automotive consortia, including HEDGE (High-Efficiency Dilute Gasoline Engine), CHEDE (Clean High-Efficiency Diesel Engine) and AEF (Advanced Engine Fluids). While actual projects will be determined by the consortia voting membership, examples of projects could include:

  • Casting process simulation advancement
  • Materials characterization advancement
  • Cylinder head transient analysis
    • Temperature fields and deformation
    • Fatigue analysis
  • Role of cold shut and oxidation voids on fatigue
  • Non-destructive casting evaluation
  • Cylinder head design innovation
  • New alloy development
  • Others as identified by SwRI and/or consortium participants