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Advanced fuel and propulsion technologies for future low/zero carbon transport

More than 80% of world energy today is provided by thermal power systems through combustion of fossil fuels. Because of their higher energy density and the extensive infrastructure for their supply, liquid fuels will remain the dominant energy source for transport for at least next few decades. In order to decarbonise the transport sector, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights the important role that biofuels and other alternative fuels such as hydrogen and e-fuels could, in some scenarios provide over 50% of transport energy by 2050.

In practice, there are several obstacles which hinder the application of low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels. As a zero-carbon fuel, hydrogen can be produced and used as an effective energy storage and energy carrier at solar and wind farms. But its storage and transport remain a significant challenge for its wider usage in engines due to the complexity and substantial cost of setting up multiple fuel supply infrastructure and on-board fuelling systems.

Although the low-carbon renewable liquid fuels, such as ethanol and methanol produced from hydrogen and CO2, can be used with the existing fuel supply systems, the significantly lower energy density, which is about half of that of gasoline/diesel, makes them unfavourable to be directly applied in the existing engines for various applications (e.g. automotive, flying cars, light aircraft, heavy duty vehicles, etc.) with high requirements on power density.

Whilst there is a drive to move towards electrification to meet the reduction of the carbon emissions, it is vital to innovate developments in advanced hybrid electrical and engine powertrain to provide additional options for future low-carbon transport.

Ground-breaking research 

This research aims to carry out ground-breaking research on three innovative technologies covering both fuels and propulsion systems:

  • nanobubble fuels and Nano-FUGEN system,
  • fuel-flexible BUSDICE and
  • DeFFEG system.

The technologies either in isolation or as a hybrid have the potential to make a major contribution in addressing the challenge of decarbonising the transport sector.

At first, we will explore how the nanobubble fuel (nano-fuel) concept can be used as a carrier for renewable gas fuels in liquid fuels in the form of nanobubbles. The technology can be implemented with minimal new development to the combustions engines and hence has the potential to make immediate impact on reducing CO2 emissions through better engine efficiency and increased usage of renewable energy.

Secondly, a novel 2-stroke fuel-flexible BUSDICE (Boosted Uniflow Scavenged Direct Injection Combustion Engine) concept will be systematically researched and will involve development work for adapting to be used with both conventional fossil fuels and low-carbon renewable fuels (e.g. ethanol and methanol) and simultaneously achieve superior power performance and ultra-low emissions.

At last, based on the developed BUSDICE concept, a Dedicated Fuel-Flexible Engine Generator (DeFFEG) will be further developed by integrating a linear generator and a gas spring chamber, therefore enabling advanced electrification and hybridisation for a range of applications, including automotive, aviation and marine industries.

The proposed research is a highly integrated research which will bridge the research of powertrain and fuels and promote the future development of both industries in the UK. This research will not only contribute to the high-level knowledge and intellectual skills but also will be crucial in helping to maintain and strengthen the UK's internationally leadership capabilities in both areas. Successful delivery of this project will enable academics to develop predictive and virtual design tools for manufacturers to accelerate innovation and the development and application of advanced fuels and propulsion systems and thereby reducing development costs and making them more competitive for future low-carbon transport in the global market.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Xinyan Wang
Dr Xinyan Wang - Dr Xinyan Wang is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow on advanced fuel and propulsion technologies for future low carbon and zero carbon transport. He graduated with a Master and a PhD degree in State Key Laboratory of Engines (SKLE), Tianjin University, China. Then he moved to Brunel University London as a Research Assistant at Centre for Advanced Powertrain and Fuels in 2015. His research interests include the modelling and experimental studies of renewable and bio fuels, advanced combustion processes, and novel hybrid powertrains for high-efficiency and low/zero emission transport.  He has been involved in a number of projects supported by UKRI, EPSRC, Innovate UK and EU, as well as industry, to develop next generation fuels, high efficiency engines and hybrid powertrain systems to significantly reduce CO2 and pollutant emissions from transport sector. He was recently awarded the prestigious UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship to work on advanced renewable fuels, multi-fuel combustion engines and integrated engine generators for future low carbon transport. He works closely with research partners from both academia (UCL, Imperial College and University of Oxford, Brighton University, University of Nottingham, Tianjin University) and industry (BP, Shell, MAHLE Powertrain, Ferrari S.p.A. and Yuchai Machinery Co.,Ltd). He has authored over 40 refereed papers and given over 10 presentations at several national and international conferences/workshops. He is the member of the Combustion Institute and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International and a reviewer for a number of high-impact journals and conference proceedings.

Related Research Group(s)


Advanced Powertrain and Fuels - We have particular strengths in improving the efficiency and reducing energy cost of existing engines through developing low temperature combustion processes and their controls and regenerative braking, as well as unique methodologies for the study of fuels and engines.

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 02/10/2023