UCL Engineering Exchange


Open-source solutions for diesel air pollution

A student's MSc project evaluated the Econokit, a water injection device for reducing emissions in diesel engines

An image of a sign marking London's Low emission zone

9 November 2018

The problem

Air pollution is a serious and growing problem in London. One type of pollutant which is very harmful for human lungs is caused by the combustion process in diesel-powered engines, including trucks. One way to reduce production of these pollutants is to improve combustion efficiency. Hydrogen and other gases can work as combustion accelerants, and H20 has been found to positively affect diesel combustion efficiency, leading to a rise in ‘water doping’ technologies in which water, mist and/or steam are added to diesel fuels.

Our solution

While some of these technologies are available commercially, Alan Cooper, a citizen concerned about health impacts on his family and neighbourhood, approached the Engineering Exchange in 2017 to discuss an idea to help address the problem of diesel pollution worldwide through developing a low-cost, freely available and easily replicable design for a water doping product that could reduce particulates when fixed to disel engines.

To facilitate this, Dr Paul Hellier of the UCL Faculty of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering supervised Seifeldin Mohamed Said Mattar, a student in the MSc programme in Engineering with Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The first phase of the project explored the effects of water mist and steam inhalation on a water doping system for combustion engines, assessing the reactor product gases in a standalone test rig that is able to vary temperature, pressure and flow and to use this to create simulants for engine testing.

The research comprised the first stage in a larger project to determine over what range of temperature, flowrate, and electrostatic charge conditions effects on the composition of the gas from the device outlet appear, leading to a more robust, publically-accessible technology design.

Read the thesis