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Japan’s Fuel Reforming Research Focuses on Improving Combustion and Reducing Exhaust Emissions

While hybridization is underway, internal combustion engines (ICEs) are still the mainstream powertrain in new vehicle sales. In order for OEMs to improve fleet fuel economy, not only electrification but also improvement of thermal efficiency of ICEs is essential.

While various efforts are being made worldwide to improve ICEs, research to reexamine fuels and additives used in ICEs is also being carried out.

In Japan, there is a trend aimed at the realization of super lean-burn led by the Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan (JSAE) and Research Association for Automobile Internal Combustion Engines (AICE), and fuel reforming corresponding to this trend is called for. Besides, there is a high expectation in fuel reforming and alternative fuels in terms of CO2 reduction through life cycle assessment (LCA).

For gasoline engines, fuel additive research on substances with high laminar burning velocity, such as furan and nitromethane, is proceeding. Experiments utilizing a surrogate fuel, which is recommended as a common fuel by the Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP), are also making advances. Utilizing hydrogen is another research theme for combustion enhancement in gasoline engines. There are OEMs and research institutes that examine the effect on combustion by adding hydrogen and develop the technology of enhancing burning velocity by using hydrogen which is generated from fuels and emissions through the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system.

As for diesel engines, research on alternative fuels such as bioethanol to reduce CO2 emissions is actively proceeding. One of the trending alternative fuels is hydrous ethanol since it is safe and less costly. There are several reports supporting the effectiveness of utilizing hydrous ethanol for engine output and combustion improvement, and for emission reduction due to the lower combustion temperature.

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