Issue: Oct 2009


Program targets diesel-like efficiency for natural gas using Sturman Digital Hydraulic controls



by Steve Barclay

Sturman Industries has begun work on the recently awarded $1 million grant by the California Energy Commission under its Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program. The grant was awarded in response to the Sturman proposal to convert a diesel truck engine to enabling Sturman Digital Hydraulic air controls and demonstrate its’ efficient and practical use for natural gas stationary power generation.

“This PIER grant showcases California’s dedication to innovation and the creation of a cleaner, better future.” remarked Carol Sturman, CEO and co-founder of Sturman Industries. Co-founder Eddie Sturman added, “The project will show that natural gas can achieve diesel-like efficiency by utilizing state of the art control techniques. And this demonstration is just the beginning of the improvements we can bring to the industry by adding flexibility and precise control to engines.”

Sturman will use its proven Hydraulic Valve Actuation (HVA) technology to achieve this increased efficiency. and decreased emissions. Dan Giordano, Principal Investigator on the project, notes that, “The HVA system utilizes proprietary ultrafast digital latching valves which allows for precise control of the gas exchange process. The Miller cycle will be employed to vary the effective compression ratio over the operating range. . This approach allows us to take advantage of a high expansion ratio while avoiding knock. The flexibility will also allow us to achieve precise air fuel ratios without the typical throttling losses associated with spark ignited natural gas engines. Engine efficiency is expected to increase by 10-15% especially at light to medium loads.. In addition, as part of this project, Sturman will use HVA to investigate the benefits of high turbulence and internal EGR through independent intake valve phasing and exhaust valve timing control, respectively.” Performing the engine management will be Sturman’s Condor HVA controller and the Sturman Total Engine Controller (STEC) which closes the loop on combustion to continuously adapt to varying fuel quality.

At this point, one might be questioning the need for flexibility on generator sets that typically only run at a few discrete points, but this situation highlights the greatest benefit of Sturman’s HVA and closed-loop engine controls. The ability to adapt to varying fuel quality and continuously optimize the combustion process for maximum efficiency means that a single engine architecture can be used for power generation, as well as on-highway and off-road mobile applications. The bottom line is reduced up-front investment and on-going operating costs.

The core Sturman controls utilized in this demonstration program are part of the Sturman Digital Hydraulics technology platform designed for practical and affordable large scale production implementation.

Sturman Industries is an industry leader in HVA technology, often referred to as “camless” systems. HVA eliminates the mechanical linkage between the engine valves and the crankshaft, allowing for fully flexible engine valve operation and enabling improved engine power, efficiency, and emissions. Since 1996, Sturman has produced systems ranging from basic open loop single-lift systems to advanced closed-loop systems with variable timing, lift, and multiple event operation. Sturman HVA technology has been installed in more than 60 applications ranging from 250cc single cylinder motorcycle engines to 13L heavy-duty diesel engines for research and demonstration programs.

Sturman Industries
Sturman is “Leading the Mechanical World into the Digital Age” from their headquarters in Woodland Park, CO. From the inspiring state of the art 450 acre campus facing Pikes Peak, a core focus of the Sturman team is the application of Sturman Digital Hydraulic Operating Systems, DHOS™ to engines to bring essential flexibility and efficiency using a wide variety of conventional and renewable fuels. For more information, see our website at www.sturmanindustries.com. Better yet, come visit us to for a firsthand look at the future.

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