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Spotlight: Leonardo Pachano

Dr. Leonardo Pachano received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Universidad de Los Andes in Mérida, Venezuela. He received his master’s degree and recently his doctoral degree from Universitat Politècnica de València in Valencia, Spain where he worked as a research assistant at CMT-Motores Térmicos. His research interests cover combustion and particulate matter emissions in engines. As a master's student his work was focused on the experimental characterization of the interaction between fuel injection and combustion with the in-cylinder flow in optical engines using particle image velocimetry (PIV). For his doctoral thesis, he studied combustion and soot production in diesel sprays using computational fluid dynamics (CFD).

Kelly Senecal (KS): When and why did you get started in combustion research?

Leo Pachano (LP): My interest in combustion research came through my interest in numerical simulations. When I was a bachelor student, I truly enjoyed all classes in the field of thermo-fluid dynamics, but I didn’t get the chance to explore that field using numerical tools. At the moment, my interest in numerical simulations led me to the field of biomechanics in which I really had fun working in. I started to work in combustion research in graduate school. During my master’s studies I reaffirmed how much I liked combustion while directly looking at it in an optical engine. Finally, when I started my doctoral thesis, I got the chance to continue doing combustion research and this time using CFD. I couldn’t be happier for taking that path!

Single cylinder GM 1.6 L compression ignition optical engine at CMT-Motores Térmicos.

KS: Describe your university/research group/lab facilities.

LP: I had the opportunity to work at CMT-Motores Térmicos for the past four and a half years and I’m glad to say that this has been one the most enriching experiences in my life. At CMT- Motores Térmicos, the large number of experimental facilities ranging from several types of injection test rigs, facilities for spray visualization at engine-like conditions, to engine test cells and the expertise in numerical simulations, makes it a great place to learn and conduct combustion research.

KS: What are you working on now?

LP: Right now, I’m leading the flame structure topic for the diesel combustion session organized by the Engine Combustion Network (ECN). Within the ECN, experimental and computational researchers around the globe come together to establish well-documented experiments, of much interest for numerical validation, and to promote a collaborative framework for comparison of results reported by all the participating institutions. The flame structure topic this year aims at evaluating the effect of nozzle diameter and cavitation leveraging on both experimental and numerical results.

Closer look at the bowl in the single cylinder GM 1.6 L optical engine at CMT-Motores Térmicos.

KS: What’s your favorite type of flame?

LP: Without a doubt I’d say turbulent diffusion flames. These types of flames can be found in a huge number of applications and more importantly they can move everything from a small car up to large ships.

KS: What’s your favorite fuel?

LP: Unlike the previous question, I don’t have a strong preference in relation to fuels, but I am very fond of Diesel and particularly its close relative dodecane. This Diesel surrogate accompanied me in the study of combustion and soot production for my thesis.

KS: What advice would you give students thinking about going into combustion research?

LP: If you’re interested in it, stop hesitating and definitely go for it. While I was writing my thesis, I found a poem by Ijeoma Umebinyuo that beautifully summarizes how hard it is to start something new, but I believe in pursuing what motivates you in spite of difficulties. The poem reads “Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just... start.”

Single-cylinder Light-duty spark ignition AVL engine at CMT-Motores Térmicos.

KS: Is the IC Engine dead?

LP: No, it is pretty much alive and will continue to be alive in the next decades. It doesn’t mean that the IC Engine is the perfect technology. On the contrary, and as with any other type of technology, it has its own share of challenges to face. Because the IC Engine is and will be an important player in our society, it is important that combustion research continues pushing the development of cleaner and more fuel-efficient engines. At this point, I’d like to use your words: the future is eclectic.

KS: How is your work helping improve fuel efficiency or reduce emissions?

LP: My main work and interests are focused on combustion and especially soot modeling. The ultimate goal is to try to improve our understanding on how soot is produced and consequently how it can be mitigated.

Leo hugging a Peugeot 1.0 VTi spark ignition engine.

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