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SwRI’s ECTO-Lab expands, supports EPA Cleaner Trucks Initiative

September 22, 2020 — Southwest Research Institute has added two test stands to its Exhaust Composition Transient Operation Laboratory — ECTO-Lab™. This state-of-the-art, computer-controlled, multi-fueled burner system simulates engine exhaust conditions to conduct steady-state and transient evaluations, including the ability to rapidly “age” a wide range of emission control systems. The systems include a series of components that clean the exhaust emitted by an engine prior to releasing it through the tailpipe. They reduce the emission of harmful pollutants — such as particulates or oxides of nitrogen (NOx) — into the environment.

“ECTO-Lab data have demonstrated reduced cycle-to-cycle variation compared to engine dynamometer results, and performance data from ECTO-Lab-aged parts correlate well to field-aged parts,” said Dr. Cary Henry, an assistant director in SwRI’s Powertrain Engineering Division. “The ability to run accelerated aging on a bench stand could save industry millions of dollars, helping develop or improve technology to meet increasingly strict emissions regulations and increased targets for full useful life.”

The ECTO-Lab expansion includes new lean-burn transient and stoichiometric test stands, bringing the total number of SwRI ECTO-Lab test stands to eight.

Significant technological advancements have been made to the ECTO-Lab hardware and software systems. SwRI’s powertrain controls team developed new model-based control software, while the data acquisition system was updated to a high-speed platform with greater flexibility and improved operating system compatibility. Fueling and NOx control systems have also been upgraded with precision instrumentation and advanced communication protocols. The auxiliary air injection system has been reengineered with high-precision mass flow controllers to improve the tunability, repeatability and closed-loop control of cycles such as the Standard Bench Cycle (SBC) for three-way catalyst (TWC) aging. This Environmental Protection Agency-approved method predicts the useful life of emission control systems for light-duty vehicles.

ECTO-Lab is a critical instrument in evaluating the Diesel Aftertreatment Accelerated Aging Cycles (DAAAC) protocol, part of the EPA’s 2018 Cleaner Trucks Initiative to reduce NOx emissions from heavy-duty trucks. Once this validation is complete and the EPA grants approval, the DAAAC protocol will give OEMs the same opportunity to simulate lifetime performance of diesel aftertreatment systems that the SBC has done for TWC systems.

“Continued development of our ECTO-Lab technology helps us stay ahead of industry trends to evaluate full-size aftertreatment systems with the latest technologies for light-duty gasoline, heavy-duty diesel and natural gas engines,” Henry said. “Our latest generation of ECTO-Lab technology features a host of novel controls and instrumentation to improve the range of operation and controllability of stoichiometric and lean-burn systems.”

For more information, visit ECTO-Lab or contact Rob Leibold+1 210 522 2258, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, PO Drawer 28510, San Antonio, TX 78228-0510.