Viridian Note 00171: Engine EvolutionBruce Sterling [email@example.com]
Attention Conservation Notice: Severely bizarre, industrially disruptive academic vaporware.
Sources: Science Daily http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000621073216.htm University Of Wisconsin-Madison (http://www.wisc.edu/) http://www.news.wisc.edu/thisweek/view.msql?id=5037 http://www.news.wisc.edu/newsphotos/engines.html
"Date: Posted 6/21/2000
"Building Better Engines Through Natural Selection
"MADISON == Could Charles Darwin's rules of evolution
help engineers design high-performance engines of the
"Computer models developed at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison are doing just that, by using genetic
algorithms to simultaneously increase fuel efficiency and
"Peter Senecal, a post-doctorate engineer at UW-
Madison, created the computer models to help sort through
literally billions of combinations of factors that
determine engine performance == a task too enormous for
conventional computer simulations.
"Senecal says the most important advance is in
improving pollution emissions without sacrificing fuel
efficiency, and vice versa. (...)
"The results to date have been dramatic. Using a
Silicon Graphics supercomputer at UW-Madison's Engine
Research Center, Senecal created a diesel engine design
that reduces nitric oxide emissions by three-fold and soot
emissions by 50 percent over the best available
technology. At the same time, the model reduced fuel
consumption by 15 percent.
"Six engine performance measures were studied,
including fuel injection timing, injection pressure, and
amount of exhaust recirculation. The simulation was then
reproduced experimentally in a real diesel engine housed
at the ERC. 'We found that the agreement was excellent
between what was measured in the lab engine and what the
computer predicted,' Senecal says.
"Senecal's research will be published in an upcoming
issue of the International Journal of Engine Research.
(...) His work also is turning heads in the engine
manufacturing industry, which faces major new federal
pollution control mandates by the year 2002." (((No doubt
it's easier just to bribe Congressmen to mandate no
enforcement at the EPA, but gee whiz == evolving a
diesel engine! Why stop there? Speaking as a Viridian
comsumer, I want all my stuff algorithmically
"Caterpillar Inc., a Peoria-based manufacturer of
diesel engines for trucks and heavy equipment, is funding
Senecal's post-doctorate work that will focus on improving
the geometry of engines.
"Senecal says genetic algorithms have been developed
in recent years for other engineering challenges, such as
designing bridges and airplane wings. 'I kind of stumbled
onto this in the literature, and wasn't sure if it would
work for something as complex as engine design,' he says.
(((One has to love these little outbursts of guileless
serendipity in the R&D community.)))
"Here's how it works: Senecal begins with five
'individuals,' which are defined as one distinct set of
the six engine parameters. Four of the individuals are
randomly selected and the fifth is the baseline, or best
known set of parameters.
"Next, a computer model is used to weed out the best
parameters of the first group. The two fittest 'parents'
are then allowed to 'reproduce' and a new generation is
formed, complete with 'mutations' that represent marked
improvements over the previous generation. The process is
continued through successive generations until the
computer identifies the most 'fit' member of the group."
(((Technically known as "getting something for nothing,"
but that's how we got octopi and pterodactyls.)))
"Senecal says this process narrows the field of
potentially one billion calculations on the computer down
to 200 to 250 of the best possibilities. The computer can
accomplish in weeks what would otherwise take decades to
"Mechanical engineering Professor Rolf Reitz,
Senecal's Ph.D. thesis advisor, says the computer model is
extremely versatile and could be used for all types of
engines. While current work focuses on questions like fuel
injection and air intake, studies of engine hardware are
"Reitz says the typical engine piston, for example, has not been fundamentally improved upon for decades. Yet engineers have no idea whether a different geometry could produce much better engines." (((Hint: hurry up and save our Greenhouse bacon by evolving SUVs, smelters, air conditioners, cement makers, televisions, dehumidifiers, routers, and desalinization plants.)))
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O