For engineering group Bosal, the future is now. The company’s advanced research programme is already working on the hi-tech concepts and products customers will demand in five to 10 years’ time. From light weight, high efficiency exhaust systems to heat exchangers for industrial CHP units and domestic boilers, Bosal is working on a range of projects to ensure it has the core expertise required in a changing world.
Dr Jean-Paul Janssens, Bosal’s Director of Advanced Research, said: “We believe that it is valuable, if not vital, to integrate this advanced research with our research and development and product development activities. The demands on efficiency improvements in the automotive industry will be ongoing and challenging, and we need to be at the forefront of devising important solutions.”
With the global drive to cut carbon emissions continuing to dominate trends in the automotive industry, Bosal is working to reduce weight, increase the efficiency of conventional systems and introduce new concepts in managing high temperature gas flows.
Dr Janssens added: “In the past decade, the material thicknesses used in exhaust systems have reduced from 1.5mm to 0.9mm on average, despite needing to accommodate higher combustion temperatures. Looking to the future, gasoline is likely to power smaller engines, with diesel dominating those of greater than 2,000cc.”
To improve emissions control and reduce overall emissions output, more complex hot end systems featuring integrated catalysts or diesel particulate filters are required, in turn reducing the muffler volume required in the cold end. And with increasing numbers of hybrids coming to market, there is also likely to be growing demand for heat exchangers in exhaust lines.
“We at Bosal are responding to market trends by expanding our work to explore, understand and exploit the capabilities of materials and manufacturing systems to create products that operate at elevated temperatures and meet customer needs,” said Dr Janssens.
This work includes developing unique test facilities to help the company characterise the behaviour of high-strength stainless steels at elevated temperatures. For example, Bosal has investigated the oxidation and chromium evaporation behaviour of stainless steels at high temperature, replicating conditions inside high-temperature solid oxide fuel cell stacks.
The company is also investigating forming and joining techniques for various materials, looking at both ease of manufacture and durability under demanding operating conditions of temperature, pressure and vibration. This work leads directly to innovative products for markets outside the automotive industry, such as using the company’s expertise in stainless steel to manufacture heat exchangers for a new range of extended-durability condensing boilers for domestic central heating.
Bosal has also produced 100kW recuperators for CHP (combined heat & power) units, delivering surface densities greater than 1.2 m2 / litre volume and effectiveness greater than 90 per cent with very low backpressures (less than 22 mbar) operating at 700ºC. This expertise is also being showcased in ‘proof of concept’ microturbine systems, which help to prove the technologies ahead of their implementation in the automotive industry.
Further work is being carried out on concepts for innovative conditioners for Stirling engines and fuel cells, such as a 10kW ‘balance of plant’ multifuel unit for a fuel cell auxiliary power unit (APU) being developed in partnership with a global power systems company, leading to electrical efficiencies in excess of 60 per cent in a very compact package.