Funding from Southwestern Energy for Conformable CNG Tanks
Michigan’s REL, Inc. and Michigan Tech have been awarded a $2.1-million, three-year investment from Houston’s Southwestern Energy to further their work on conformable compressed natural gas fuel tanks. The goal is affordable CNG fuel containers that can be more efficiently placed on a vehicle.
“Tanks today sit in the bed and take up a lot of the space, which is a drawback to the consumer,” Southwestern strategy, performance and innovation VP John Gargani says in a Michigan Tech release.
An interdisciplinary team of Michigan Tech researchers and REL engineers is to design, fabricate and test a conformable CNG tank for light-duty trucks.
Materials Are Key
They “have been tasked with designing a tank that fits around existing vehicle components, can withstand the pressure of compressed natural gas and can be easily – and inexpensively – fabricated,” says the Michigan Tech announcement.
“Then, research will shift to optimizing the material used for the tank. If existing materials don’t have sufficient properties, new aluminum alloys may be developed.”
REL specializes in materials technology, with achievements including novel high-temperature materials for NASA’s Space Shuttle (F&F, August 9).
“There will be mechanical engineering and materials science students and faculty working together said Greg Odegard, the Richard and Eliabeth Henes Professor of Computational Mechanics in Michigan Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. “Once the tank is fabricated, REL will give it back to us and we’ll test it – put it on a pickup truck, mount it, drive it around. REL and Michigan Tech are positioned ideally to develop this tank.”
According to Gargani, “Southwestern Energy Company has an ongoing relationship with Michigan Tech… the University has a strong connection with the auto industry and a very strong mechanical engineering program. It’s exactly what we were looking for.”
Adam Loukus, VP at REL and a Michigan Tech alumnus, is principal investigator on the project.
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Source: Michigan Tech with Fleets & Fuels follow-up