“I am using a mathematical model to simulate combustion engine designs faster and with less resources.”
Designing a car engine requires an understanding of a lot of processes – three-dimensional motion, fluid dynamics, turbulence and multiple complex chemical reactions. Mechanical engineer Guangying Yu uses computational simulations to do the heavy lifting. The goal, Yu says, is ultimately to build engines with greater and greater fuel economy, while also reducing pollution from emissions.
Yet for such lofty goals, Yu admits to a very simple reason for pursuing this career path. “I chose mechanical engineering in my undergrad because I really liked fancy cars.”
Hoping to combine his mathematical aptitude with his love for high-performance vehicles, Yu pursued a degree in engineering at Dalian University of Technology, one of the Big Four institutes of technology in China. There, he focused on internal combustion engine design, getting his first taste of mathematical modeling and computational simulation.
After graduating with a degree in Engineering in Thermal Energy and Power Engineering, he learned of the combustion lab at Northeastern led by Professor Mohamed Metghalchi. Yu reached out, and with the offer of a graduate researcher position, he moved from his home in Shenyang to Boston to take on a graduate research role.
In his role at the lab, Yu uses a technique known as Rate-Controlled Constrained-Equilibrium (RCCE) to mathematically simulate the fuel-combustion process within a combustion engine. “The chemical reactions in the combustion process are very complex,” he explains, “and to simulate them with a high degree of accuracy, you need to build a huge model using a supercomputer, which could take months to run a single test. RCCE is a reduction technique which allows for faster development while using much less computational resources.”
When not working in the lab or teaching fluid mechanics and thermodynamics to undergraduates, Yu has also contributed to nearly a dozen publications over the last five years. He has also won multiple awards while at Northeastern, including an Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award in 2018. After he completes his PhD later in 2019, he aspires to a career in engine R&D with an automotive manufacturer. His dream job? “Aston Martin,” Yu admits, laughing. “They are my favorite.”