Research Projects

Advanced Engine Research and FUELCOM


To enable market leadership and maximum profitability it is important to develop a fuel formulation strategy in blending fuels for current and emerging internal combustion engine cycles.

Over the past three decades there has been a considerable increase in the efficiency of Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs) as well as a sizeable reduction in emissions.
In order to achieve future fuel economy and emissions targets, development is needed of advanced engine technologies and these technologies should be developed in concert with advanced fuel formulations.  

The major challenge with the implementation of these advanced engine technologies is tailoring the fuel formulation to optimize ignition and combustion processes.  These engines will operate under extreme conditions, and thus a fundamental understanding of combustion behavior at these extreme conditions becomes more crucial for the design of future fuel formulations. 

Our objective then is to combine expertise in industrial fuel formulation and production with KAUST CCRC’s capabilities in fundamental and applied combustion research to enable commercialization of next generation engine technologies.

                          Figure 1 – Pictorial representation of advanced low temperature combustion engine technologies
                                                            with reduced PM and NOx emissions

Research Directions

Over the last three decades there have been significant developments in combustion science, owing to the advances in experimental diagnostics, computational capability, and kinetics mechanism development. Consequently, combustion engineering is transitioning from an empirical-based approach to science-based approach and so now is the right time to initiate a first-principle based research targeted at achieving a competitive and superior fuel design.

                                                          Figure 2. Advances in Combustion Science over the past 30 years

Our research program enables a simulation-based fuel design, with specific focus on advanced engine fuel formulation strategy based on first principles.  The research program consists of two thrusts:

Thrust I. First principle-based fuel characterization

Fuel characterization is required for the development of a fuel formulation technology.  Both for conventional and advanced concept IC engines, the key fundamental combustion behaviors are ignition, flame propagation, and emission phenomena. 

Characterization of these three phenomena is crucial for conventional gasoline and diesel formulations along with fuel formulation for advanced concept engines, irrespective of future engine development. Thrust I is designed to systematically understand these combustion behaviors, which could provide a fundamental database for the application oriented Thrust II.

Thrust II. Fuel Design for Advanced Engines
Thrust II is focused on the development of simulation based fuel formulation strategy for advanced engines.  The scope includes fuel formulation for advanced concept engines by utilizing the KAUST Research (KR) CFR engine and single cylinder research engines. This thrust will be aligned with Thrust I by testing the same component fuels, thus identifying the fundamental aspects of combustion behavior on engine performance and emission.


The proposed research program includes sub-projects focused on the two major thrusts detailed above. These sub-projects will work harmoniously such that similar fuels are studied experimentally in state-of-the-art combustion facilities (e.g., burners, reactors, engines, etc.), and comprehensive physical-chemistry models are developed to accurately predict combustion phenomenon. 

The sub-topics to be investigated during this ambitious ten-year program will include:
  • Chemical kinetics processes of auto-ignition in shock tubes, jet stirred reactors, plug flow reactors, rapid compression machines.
  • Physical processes in auto-ignition in high temperature jets of pre-vaporized and liquid fuels at elevated pressures and ignition quality testers.
  • Laminar and turbulent flame speeds of real fuels at engine-relevant pressures using high-pressure spherical vessels.
  • Fuel emission characterization measurements of soot and NOx production in laminar and turbulent flames at atmospheric and high pressures, both co-flow and counter-flow geometries.
  • Model development and high fidelity simulations using DNS, LES, and RANS methods.
  • Fuel formulation for advanced concept engines using KR CFR engines to study end-gas and pre-ignition chemistry, and SCREs for performance and emission testing.
  • Pre-ignition in gasoline engines analysis on engine & rig tests.
  • Study of fuel mixing in advanced engines using optically transparent engines.
  • Emissions characterization from future fuel engines based on fuel effects & additives for emission reduction.
  • Engine combustion simulations to design advanced engines running on diesel, gasoline, or novel fuel formulations.

​Task Description
​​Thrust 1:
First Principle Based Fuel
​Chemical kinetics processes of autoignition
​Physical processes in autoignition
​Flame speed for real fuels in E/G like environment
​Fuel emission characterization
​Model development and high-fidelity simulations
​Thrust 2:
Fuel Design for Enabling
Future Engines
​Fuel formulation for advanced concept engines
​Pre-ignition in SI engines
​Fuel mixing in advanced engines (transparent)
​Emissions reduction from advanced engines
​Engine combustion simulations
Figure 3 – Research Program Overview