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Advancements in Diesel Technology

Nov 5, 2021 ·
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Diesel engines play a huge role for many industries and help power important equipment that keeps things running. It makes sense that people are working on ways to improve diesel technology.

While diesel engines and fuel are efficient resources, they have had a reputation in the past for being loud and for producing large amounts of emissions. But thanks to advancements in diesel technology, those days are leaving us and diesel is beginning to be considered a good alternative to gasoline-powered engines and equipment.

Keep reading to learn more about diesel technology and some of the advancements coming to the industry.

Diesel Engine History

Before jumping into the advancements in the field of diesel technology, it helps to have some context on the history of the diesel engine and how things started.

In the 1870s, the main supplier of power for factories and trains was steam. There were even some early motor vehicles powered by steam, along with internal combustion engines.

At this time, Rudolph Diesel was a student learning about thermodynamics, and he got the idea to create a highly efficient engine. This led to him develop what would become known as the diesel engine. He received patents for designs in the 1890s, and the first prototype was completed in 1893.

After many improvements and tests, Diesel produced successful results with his engine in 1897. There was an efficiency increase of 16.2% compared with steam engines being used at the time.

A diesel engine is considered an internal combustion engine, just like a gasoline engine. Fuel is burned inside the combustion chamber, where power and torque are created. Modern diesel engines can be up to twice as efficient as gasoline engines, allowing drivers to go farther on the same amount of fuel.

Diesel Technological Innovations

Even though diesel-powered engines are more efficient and produce less CO2 than regular gasoline engines, there are still ways to make improvements to them.

Several improvements and enhancements are being created in the industry to help increase operational efficiency and minimize the amount of emissions these engines produce. Some technologies have the benefit of helping with the combustion rates of diesel fuel as well.

What Is Cetane?

Cetane is a chemical compound that’s found naturally in diesel. It’s highly flammable, and it’s the industry-standard measurement for evaluating the quality of fuel combustion.

This measure of ignition quality is known as the cetane number, or CN. Some diesel engine performance factors that are influenced by the cetane number are: cold starting, engine warmup, acceleration and exhaust-smoke density. Lowering the cetane number lowers the compression ignition temperature, thereby reducing ignition lag.

Cetane Additives

Cetane additives (aka cetane accelerators) are used to increase the cetane value of a fuel. However, increasing the cetane value usually reduces fuel density and therefore fuel mileage. Some manufacturers recommend the use of cetane improvers during extremely cold conditions.

A higher amount of cetane leads to the fuel igniting in the combustion chamber more quickly after being injected. Fuel is ignited at a lower temperature, and the result is accelerated fuel combustion.

Common Rail Fuel Combustion

The common rail fuel injection system works by reducing the size of fuel droplets injected into the combustion chambers of a diesel engine. Smaller droplets burn more completely and help increase oxygenation. The result is a higher level of compression ignition and combustion with the diesel fuel.

The use of the common rail fuel injection system dates to 1997 for diesel cars and marine engines, and to the mid-2000s for diesel trucks and pickups, but it’s still considered modern technology in the diesel industry.

Before then, diesel engines would use direct injection fuel systems that would cause large drops of fuel to enter the chamber. The common rail fuel injection system controls the emitted droplet-size fuel to optimize engine performance under almost any temperature, load or speed condition.

Diesel Oxidation Catalysts

Diesel oxidation catalysts (DOC) work to help convert carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons (unburned fuel) into a less harmful mixture of carbon dioxide and water.

This process helps increase the nitrogen dioxide content to support the performance of the SCR catalyst and promote passive regeneration of diesel particulate filter (DPF). Ultimately, this decreases emissions produced by diesel engines.

Selective Catalyst Reduction Systems

Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) is another emissions control process used as a nitrous oxide reduction strategy. Diesel exhaust fluid is injected into the exhaust over a catalyst in a decomposition chamber. The fluid reacts with the precious metals in the catalyst, allowing the nitrous oxide to be converted into harmless nitrogen and water.

Once this process is complete, the nitrogen and water are expelled through the vehicle’s tailpipe. SCR is a cost-effective and fuel-efficient technology that works to help reduce diesel engine emissions.

Train With Current Diesel Technology at UTI

It’s important when pursuing a career in the diesel industry to get training with relevant technology and best practices. The Diesel Technology program at Universal Technical Institute offers courses that can help give students hands-on experience with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Daimler Trucks North America, Cummins, Fendt and Peterbilt.15

Total diesel technician employment in the United States is expected to exceed 296,000 by 2030.48 At UTI, you can graduate in less than a year7 ready for an entry-level career in the industry.1 Be a part of the future of diesel mechanics and request more information today!

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