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The future energy supply is a comprehensive problem which needs contributions from all sides


Eindhoven Technical University (TU/e) is a leading European university founded in 1956 by industry, local government and academia.

Its Mechanical Engineering Department, whose mission is to carry out long term, generic, world-class research within the mechanical engineering domain on carefully selected topics including bioenergy and cogeneration, is a key research partner of our SmartCHP consortium. Specifically, it is the Power & Flow Group of the Department focusing on clean and efficient combustion and process technology which conducts the activities within SmartCHP.

Recently, TU/e published a study on ignition and combustion characteristics of fast pyrolysis bio-oil (FPBO) showing results generated as part of the project research activities. FPBO which can be produced from different sources of biomass is used as fuel in the SmartCHP cogeneration unit.

To find out more we had an interview with Yu Wang,  a Doctoral Candidate in Power & Flow group at the Department of Mechanical Engineering of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).

What is your personal interest in the SmartCHP project and related fields?

I have strong interest in cogeneration. I’m a researcher in internal combustion engine field. As we all know, currently, vehicle engines are facing the challenging from the battery electric motors. While in my view, IC engines could collaborate with BEVs by working in the upstream sector – electricity generation. IC engines have both high efficiency and good performance in dynamic response. By cogeneration, most of residual heat in exhaust pipe as well as in cooling water, which is wasted in mobile engines, can be utilised for heat supply. In short, I personally believe cogeneration is one of the major engine research directions in the future. .


What is the role of your organisation in the SmartCHP project?

The main role of TU/e is to study how fast pyrolysis bio-oil (FPBO) burns under engine-like conditions. For normal fuels, like diesel, we now know much on how combustion starts and how pollutant forms. However, FPBO has special properties, quite different from conventional fuels, and hence we have very limited knowledge on that. Performing the fundamental combustion studies allows us to have a better understanding of this fuel and helps us better use it in SmartCHP systems.


What is your organisation’s motivation to be in the project?

As a member of 4TU Federation in the Netherlands, TU/e looks at the future energy transition and supply. Our Power & Flow Group focuses on clean and efficient combustion and process technology, to cater for fast-growing energy demands. We think that SmartCHP has bright prospects and believe our expertise in fuel flow and combustion can make difference in this project. .


Recently your organisation published a deliverable on the determination of the ignition and combustion characteristics of FPBO and a related scientific article, could you summarise the main findings and how these will help build the SmartCHP system?

In this deliverable, we performed quantitative measurement on the ignition properties of FPBO. It can instruct the use of FPBO and the modification of diesel engine in SmartCHP system.

Here are several useful findings:

  • The ignitability of FPBO is higher than ethanol but lower than n-butanol.
  • BERAID is not a suitable cetane improver for FPBO.
  • The biomass origins influence FPBO’s ignitability and heating value.


In your opinion, what will be the next crucial milestones of SmartCP?

Last year, an important milestone in SmartCHP was achieved: the modified diesel engine could run stably for more than 500 hours on fast pyrolysis bio-oil. After reaching the durability goal, the next crucial milestone in the SmartCHP project, in my opinion, is to achieve the efficiency goals: an electric efficiency of 40% and an overall energy efficiency of 85%.


Why do you think we need solutions like SmartCHP?

There are several main reasons. First, converting agriculture and forestry residues to liquid bio-oil for combined heat and power generation is a good solution for the energy supply in future sustainable society. Second, the flexible engine-based power generation will play a more and more important role in compensating for the fluctuating wind and solar electricity. Third, I think in some special energy demand scenarios, e.g., small islands and remote areas, SmartCHP will be a very realistic and reliable solution.


In 10 or 15 years time how do you imagine the heat and power sectors will have changed?

I guess with the substantially increase of electricity generated from wind and solar farms, the problem we are facing may change from how to address the shortage of power supply to how to balance the grid fluctuation in the future. Relying on the fast dynamic response of engine, the SmartCHP system could work as dispatchable power to balance the grid fluctuation in this scenario.


What do you enjoy most about working on a project like SmartCHP?

It must be the extensive cooperation and exchanges among academia, industry, government, and public. The future energy supply is a comprehensive problem, which needs contributions from all sides. I enjoy working in such an international and diverse project team.


Which 5 words would you use to describe SmartCHP

Reliable, realistic, flexible, sustainable, advanced

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