Advanced science.  Applied technology.


SwRI's Army fuels and lubricants program celebrates 50 years of service

October 17, 2007 — The U.S. Army TARDEC Fuels and Lubricants Research Facility (TFLRF) at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) will mark its 50th anniversary with a ceremony at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18.

The TFLRF is a Government-Owned Contractor-Operated (GOCO) facility that provides state-of-the-art research, development and engineering services for the Army's fuels and lubricants needs, said Ed Owens, director. "We provide technical support service and help develop and maintain the Army's specifications for all the fluids used in ground equipment," he said.

The facility, originally called the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps Fuels and Lubricants Research Laboratory, opened May 9, 1957. It now reports to the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren, Mich., and is operated by SwRI's Fuels and Lubricants Research Division.

The facility is a unique resource where a highly trained and experienced staff perform integrated fuels-lubricants-engine systems research and development programs. These programs involve combustion, performance characterization, engine cleanliness, vulnerability assessments and Tribology.

Attending the ceremony from TARDEC will be Thomas M. Mathes, Executive Director for TARDEC's Product Development Business Group; Dr. Walter Bryzik, TARDEC Chief Scientist; Frederick O. Balling, Associate Director, Force Protection Technology; and Luis A. Villahermosa, Team Leader for the Fuels and Lubricants Technology Team. These individuals manage the GOCO contract for these facilities.

TARDEC's capabilities, augmented by the Institute's diverse staff and facilities, range from fundamental investigations to field validation testing and rapid response problem solving.

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 Institute had been providing these services to both industry and the military for nearly a decade when it was selected, Owens said, adding, "The Institute is the largest independent organization in the fuels and lubricants evaluation business. And 50 years ago, the Institute was already the largest."

Early results from the partnership included identifying the causes and chemistry of engine sludge and deposit formation, developing a fundamental understanding of low-temperature wax formation in diesel fuels, analyzing engine exhaust emissions, understanding diesel ignition and combustion, and evaluating fuel alternatives for spark ignition and diesel engines. These efforts lead to changes and developments of new procedures and requirements subsequently adopted by commercial industry.

Today, while still predominantly supporting the 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.

"As the Army fuels and lubricants focus has changed through the years from longer-term issues such as improving military specification products and future Army equipment requirements to today's emphasis on field problem-solving and cost reduction, the nature of our work and the capabilities of our staff have had to change accordingly," said Owens.

Owens said the most significant project under way is the development and fielding of a fire-resistant JP-8 fuel for Army ground equipment, both combat and tactical. This JP-8 fuel will self-extinguish, thereby saving lives, reducing severe burns, and reducing equipment loss caused by fire.

Other activities include supporting a project for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to qualify jet fuels made from non-petroleum sources, evaluating a variety of oil lifetime extension approaches for Army ground vehicles, and conducting a study to assess the feasibility of a single-specification, single-viscosity-grade lubricant for military ground vehicles.

"The volume of the Army's work that comes here varies according to the budget and focus of technology," Owens said. "This unique arrangement has continued for these 50 years because of the military's continuing need for transportation fluids expertise, the Institute's commitment to support the U.S. military through all the ups and downs, and the desire by the parties on both sides of this arrangement to do what we can to support our troops."

For more information contact Deb Schmid, +1 210 522 2254, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.