Located a good one mile from the heart of the main campus,
distance is not the only factor that sets apart the Engines and
Energy Conversion Laboratory, an undertaking that stretches over
five acres of land, adjoining the Cache la Poudre River, from the
rest of the CSU campus.
Tim Bauer, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, and
Patrick Ginger, a research assistant at the EECL, agree that it is
a unique experience to pursue studies in the municipal power
plant-turned laboratory. Bauer acknowledges the benefits of such a
setting – real world experience in graduate school and the
opportunity of job offers from companies working on collaborative
projects. Having had prior experience working at a pipeline
industry, Ginger said the EECL is his best work experience so
“The engines at the lab are really similar to what you would
find at a natural gas compressor station,” Ginger said. “Exposing
students to this type of atmosphere gives them the upper hand when
looking for a job.”
Shannon Lynch, a senior mechanical engineering major, one of the
few female students in the field, feels confident that if more
students had the opportunity to see how things work at the EECL,
the field would certainly attract more women.
Bryan Wilson, director of research and founder of the EECL, is
currently involved in several projects aimed at developing new
technologies to reduce air pollution and fuel consumption from
While miniature models of the tuk-tuk from Thailand, the Indian
auto rickshaw and the Philippine tricycle add color to his
interesting brick-lined office, the actual tricycle engine sits in
the laboratory. Having perfected a “clean” snowmobile in 2002,
Wilson and his team are currently working on a project that would
apply a similar technology to Asian three-wheelers, which run on
two-stroke engines, comparable to those employed by
The success of this project, which employs “direct injection”
for fuel delivery, would help control the pollution caused by these
automobiles, reducing emissions by as much as 99 percent.
“To reduce pollution from the two-stroke engines used in
motorbikes and three wheelers, we are using a direct fuel injection
technique similar to what we have used in our large engine
research,” Wilson said.
Wilson said that the EECL is one of the few labs in the country
to employ Fourier Transform Infrared technology (FTIR) to study
specific types of pollutants, having been employed in past projects
to identify hazardous chemicals in exhaust emissions.
Wilson is also on a collaborative venture with the Department of
Electrical Engineering at CSU to study the application of plasma to
reduce engine pollution. Another project, underway in collaboration
with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, involves the
reduction of friction in engines, hence improving overall
Most natural gas engines either use spark ignition to ignite the
fuel or rely on direct injection of fuel into a combustion chamber,
where the fuel self-ignites due to heat of the compressed air.
Sponsored by the Department of Energy, a current project in
Wilson’s lab is studying the employment of focused lasers to create
ignition in a natural gas engine; this is in collaboration with
Argonne National Laboratory and the National Energy technology
“In the laser ignition process, we focus the laser beam to a
point in the cylinder; a spark then forms at the focal point which
ignites the mixture,” Wilson said.
Wilson is also collaborating with the Cummins Engine Company and
Waukesha Engine to produce natural gas engines that would generate
electricity within cities. Generation of electricity in power
plants outside of city limits requires the use of extended power
lines, increasing the probability of blackouts.
The concept of using engines to generate electricity locally for
use within cities, called “distributed generation,” is expected to
provide a more reliable power supply.
“Distributed generation is attracting attention because it is
less vulnerable to the types of black-outs that were seen in New
York and the Midwest this summer,” Wilson said. “This process is
Kathi Delehoy, assistant vice president for Research and
Information Technology, said the EECL is a good example of a
“The engines lab is a perfect example of a lab where students
stand side-by-side with industrial leaders,” Delehoy said.
Collaborative projects with industries, Delehoy said, offer an
excellent opportunity for the university to participate in
cutting-edge research and technology transfer.
Such collaborative projects are on the rise at CSU and funding
from the private sector has increased over the past several years;
in the previous year alone, such funds have grown from $41,558,620
in 2002 to $43,376,048 in 2003.