Imperial College London

Shell launch new centre at Imperial for research into fuels and lubricants

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Researchers calibrate a machine in the Department of Mechanical Engineering

Energy and petrochemical company Shell will work with Imperial to establish a University Technology Centre for research to improve energy efficiency.

The Centre, based in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, will focus on ways to enhance fuel efficiency in engines, improve lubricant design and reduce friction in all types of machine component.

The key mission of researchers in both fuels and lubricants is to increase machine efficiency by reducing energy consumption and thus helping to minimise CO2 emissions.

We have enjoyed a very productive relationship with Imperial for a number of years

– Selda Gunsel

Vice President of Global Commercial Technology, Shell

For fuels this means improving combustion and limiting the formation of deposits in engines.  For lubricants it is about continually reducing friction in all types of machine ranging from automotive engines to mining equipment.

The Centre aims to replicate a similar, highly successful programme between the Department of Mechanical Engineering and SKF, the world’s leading bearing company, which has been running since 2010. Research conducted by the SKF University Technology Centre has contributed directly to the company’s ability to predict and improve bearing performance as well as informing research and development strategies within SKF. 

Professor Hugh Spikes

Professor Hugh Spikes

Professor Hugh Spikes, Head of the Tribology Group at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, hopes that this success will be repeated with the new Shell venture.

He said: “We envisage that we will be able to do both fundamental and applied research in fuels and lubricants to provide Shell with specialist capability and additional capability to drive technological advances. One of the main advantages of having a University Technology Centre is that it can respond to questions and needs that are of direct benefit to on-going product development, as well as conducting longer term basic research and training PhD students.”

“Our excellent reputation and location are important factors in Shell’s choice and our experience working with SKF and Rolls Royce on similar Centres means the Department is well equipped for the first ever Shell University Technology Centre,” Professor Spikes added.

Selda Gunsel, Shell’s Vice President of Global Commercial Technology, said: “We have enjoyed a very productive relationship with Imperial for a number of years now and currently have research projects underway that are mainly focused on furthering the development of energy-efficient lubricants.”

Ed Daniels, Chairman of Shell UK Limited, said: “The Centre’s strength will come from the fact that post-doctoral researchers can work on short term experimental projects to screen new ideas, as well as conducting longer term research. The proximity of Imperial to our London headquarters will also mean that our staff in a ‘dry’ office environment can get exposure to cutting edge experimental research.”

Researchers working on a team project

While Shell has worked extensively with Imperial’s Departments of Chemical Engineering and Earth Sciences and Mechanical Engineering, in recent times there has also been increasing research collaboration with other departments such as Materials and Chemistry.

This collaboration with the Department of Mechanical Engineering reflects a step-up in the commitment between the company and the College and will be governed by the recently-signed overall framework agreement between Shell and Imperial.

The Shell University Technology Centre at Imperial will provide a unique opportunity for collaboration between researchers across both Shell and Imperial. Those working on the processes of extracting and refining oil will work closely with people developing products for commercial applications and fuel specialists will collaborate closely with lubricant formulators.

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Michael Jones

Michael Jones
Enterprise

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Email: michael.jones1@imperial.ac.uk

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