Source: Knoxville News Sentinel | Brittany Crocker | April 16, 2018

(Photo: Michael Patrick/News Sentinel)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists and automakers have developed a new cast aluminum alloy for engine cylinder heads, which could lead to more fuel-efficient internal combustion engines.

The research team involved ORNL researchers and representatives from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and a cylinder head manufacturer in what Amit Shyam calls a combination of tools and expertise that made the technology possible.

Shyam is a senior research and development staff member in ORNL’s alloy behavior and design group.

The problem, in this case, was engine alloys that have not changed in 30 years.

In developing a new alloy, researchers started with a Rolls Royce alloy originally developed for World War II aircraft.

“The thing about this alloy is that it’s very expensive and not very castable,” Shyam said.

It continues to be used, however, because it can retain its mechanical properties at higher temperatures, which is especially pertinent as automakers push for stronger, more powerful engines.

“The general trend there is to make smaller engines that can have a higher power density,” Shyam said.

A common technique for doing that is turbocharging, like Ford’s Eco Boost feature, which has been connected to overheating, cracked cylinders and engine fires.

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