“I can bring the ambient air oxygen concentration down by diluting it with exhaust gas,” says Ciatti. “Because I am injecting it early, and don’t have a mixing problem like diesel does, I can run EGR without much penalty and I can bring my NOx levels to very low levels. I’m simultaneously able to reduce particulates and NOx because I am running a fuel that is difficult to auto-ignite.”
For now the experiments are restricted only to the lab. “If I tried to do this under the hood of a vehicle, it would be very difficult to do because I don’t have the ability to instrument or control it the way I do here,” says Ciatti.
However, the team at Argonne is working with major automakers, and oil companies, in the hope of changing that. The humble internal combustion engine, which has been powering cars since the 19th Century, may have some life left in it yet.