Research News

DENSO gift powers new biodiesel testing facility

The Vanderbilt School of Engineering will soon have a new state-of-the-art biodiesel testing facility, thanks to a $100,000 gift from the DENSO North America Foundation.

Beginning in the fall of 2008, students from various engineering disciplines will use the Vanderbilt Multi-User Biodiesel Engine Test Facility to investigate diesel engine performance parameters and test campus-produced biodiesel fuels, according to Professor Robert W. Pitz, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The facility will be housed in Featheringill Hall and will be managed by the mechanical engineering department under the direction of Professor Amrutur V. Anilkumar.

“The facility will include a four-cylinder diesel engine typically used in passenger cars,” Pitz said. “The engine will be linked to a computer that will analyze the test data and monitor engine performance with various fuels.”

The engine will be equipped with an eddy current dynamometer to vary the engine load and characterize torque and power curves as a function of engine speed. Students will also use diagnostic equipment to monitor particulate and gaseous emissions from the biodiesel engine.

The biodiesel facility will be used by mechanical engineering students as part of their core laboratory curriculum; mechanical, chemical, and environmental engineering seniors involved in capstone projects in biodiesel characterization and reactor design, and the WilSkills student volunteers from throughout the University who are involved in campus-wide waste oil recycling and biodiesel production.

Biodiesel is a processed fuel derived from biological sources that can be used in unmodified diesel-engine vehicles. It produces about 60 percent less net carbon-dioxide emissions than petroleum-based diesel fuel. Engineering students and other volunteers from WilSkills, an outdoor education program at Vanderbilt, are collecting used vegetable oil from campus cafeterias and recycling it into environmentally friendly biodiesel. The fuel is currently being used in WilSkill’s van and plant operations vehicles, and may soon power some medical center buses.

In October, James Woroniecki, senior vice president of DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee and a board member of the North America DENSO Foundation visited the School of Engineering to present DENSO’s gift to the school.

"DENSO believes its alliance with Vanderbilt’s renowned engineering programs is extremely important," Woroniecki said. "We want to continue supporting those programs because good engineers are valuable to our company and to the automotive industry."

Headquartered in Kariya, Japan, DENSO is one of the world’s largest suppliers of advanced automotive technology in components and systems. DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee Inc., located in Maryville, is one of DENSO’s largest manufacturing operations globally, employing nearly 3,000. It produces starters, alternators, instrument clusters, center displays and an array of electronic products for major automotive companies including Toyota, Honda, Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler.

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