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NEWS
Research Goal To Improve Fuel Economy, Reduce Emissions
December 1, 2010

A team of Virginia Tech engineers has received a three-year, $1.5 million award from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy to investigate specific ways to reduce emissions from vehicles and to improve fuel economy.


Scott Huxtable, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech is the principal investigator on the project investigating specific ways to reduce emissions from vehicles and improve fuel economy. Virginia Tech Photo.

The researchers hope to develop new thermoelectric materials and specific designs to achieve their goals of improved fuel efficiency and reduced pollution. Thermoelectric materials are able to directly convert heat into electricity.

“As an example, we will use the waste heat from the exhaust to generate additional electrical power, allowing a vehicle to produce a modest increase in gas mileage,” said Scott Huxtable, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech and the principal investigator on the project.

Listed as co-principal investigators are Prof. Huxtable’s Virginia Tech colleagues, Daniel Inman, the George Goodson Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Srinath Ekkad and Shashank Priya, both associate professors of mechanical engineering, as well as Andrew Miner, founder and chief executive officer of Romny Scientific.

This project involves researchers from the recently announced Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems at Virginia Tech, directed by Prof. Inman. Romny Scientific is one of its industrial partners.

The researchers will use new techniques to rapidly synthesize certain classes of materials, called skutterudites and silicides, which are thermoelectric in nature. By carefully tailoring the composition and structure of these new materials, the aim is to develop efficient thermoelectric materials that can be manufactured at large scales and low cost. Once developed, these new materials will be integrated into optimized heat exchanger modules that will extract heat from the vehicle exhaust, allowing for the thermoelectric materials to generate useful electric power from energy in the exhaust that currently is wasted, Prof. Huxtable explained.


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