Science on Tap talk to focus on researching next generation of engines

August 17, 2012  

Gregory M. Shaver

Gregory M. Shaver, left, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, in this file photo discusses how to modify a commercial diesel engine with a new technology that promises to dramatically reduce oil consumption and the emission of global-warming pollutants. (Purdue News Service photo)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University mechanical engineer will speak Thursday (Aug. 23) about a new type of engine his team is developing that could dramatically reduce oil consumption and the emission of global-warming pollutants.

Gregory M. Shaver, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, will speak as part of Science on Tap at 6 p.m. in the upstairs of the Lafayette Brewing Company, 622 Main St., Lafayette. His talk is titled "Development of High Efficiency, Environmentally Friendly Vehicles."

The event is free and open to those 21 and older.

"Students and faculty at Purdue are engaged in research and educational activities focused on the development of high efficiency, environmentally friendly vehicles," Shaver said. "The upcoming Science on Tap presentation will provide an overview of these activities, with specific examples regarding next generation, fuel-flexible internal combustion engines and the Purdue EcoCAR2 student team activities."

Sponsors for the talk are the College of Engineering, School of Mechanical Engineering and Discovery Park.

Shaver's research hinges on designing engines so that their intake and exhaust valves are no longer driven by mechanisms connected to the pistons. The innovation would be a departure from the way automotive engines have worked since they were commercialized more than a century ago.

In today's internal combustion engines, the pistons turn a crankshaft, which is linked to a camshaft that opens and closes the valves, directing the flow of air and exhaust into and out of the cylinders. The new method would eliminate the mechanism linking the crankshaft to the camshaft, providing an independent control system for the valves.

Because the valves' timing would no longer be restricted by the pistons' movement, they could be more finely tuned to allow more efficient combustion of diesel, gasoline and alternative fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, Shaver said.

The concept, known as variable valve actuation, would enable significant improvements in conventional gasoline and diesel engines used in cars and trucks and for applications such as generators.

EcoCAR 2 is a three-year intercollegiate engineering competition, challenging 15 universities across North America to reduce the environmental impact of a Chevrolet Malibu. The goal: to design, construct and incorporate technologies in a vehicle that reduce petroleum energy consumption, well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions and criteria tailpipe emissions while maintaining consumer acceptability in the areas of performance, utility and safety.

Shaver, who has five patents, focuses his research on modeling and control of advanced combustion processes and engine technologies, as well as power-train control strategies that enable the efficient and clean use of conventional fuels, coal-derived fuels and biofuels.

Undergraduate and graduate students in Shaver's research group, based at Purdue's Ray W. Herrick Laboratories, also are working to develop engines that efficiently combust fuels that contain higher concentrations of biofuels, aiming to reduce nitrogen oxides and fuel consumption.

Shaver's research group sponsors include Cummins, Eaton and the U.S. Department of Energy. He also is affiliated with Purdue's Energy Center in Discovery Park.

Shaver is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), participating in the ASME Dynamic Systems and Controls Division and the ASME Automotive and Transportation Systems Panel. In addition, he is an associate editor for the IFAC Control Engineering Practice journal and the ASME Journal of Dynamics Systems and Control.

Shaver received the Kalman award for the best paper published in the Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement, and Control, and is a recent awardee of the 2012 SAE Max Bentele Award for Engine Technology Innovation.

He received a doctorate and master's degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University after completing a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue in 2000.

The Science on Tap lecture series, led by Purdue graduate students Patrick Dolan, Shaili Sharma and Becca Scott, provides Purdue faculty and collaborating researchers the opportunity to share research activities in an informal setting, with presentations that are designed to appeal to a more general audience.

Attendance at the monthly event has averaged 80 during the program's first two years.

Writers: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

Emil Venere, 765-494-4709,

Sources: Gregory M. Shaver, 765-494-9342,       

Patrick Dolan, 765-496-9336,

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