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Spotlight: Mozhgan Rahimi Boldaji

One of the main objectives of HugYourEngine is to shine a spotlight on individuals who are helping make internal combustion engines cleaner and more efficient. This spotlight is on Dr. Mozhgan Rahimi Boldaji.

Mozhgan Rahimi Boldaji is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Automotive Engineering department at Clemson University. She received her doctoral and master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Stony Brook University, and her bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Isfahan University of Technology. Her research interests include advanced low temperature combustion concepts (such as HCCI, RCCI, TSCI, and PFS), Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modeling, and alternative fuels for engines including biofuels. She has more than 4 years of experience using modeling tools to improve the performance of Internal Combustion (IC) engines. Rahimi’s research goal is to enhance the efficiency and emissions characteristics of IC engines and potentially develop an advanced engine concept that operates on renewable and sustainable fuels.

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

Mozhgan Rahimi Boldaji (MRB): Working with combustion engines was something that I wanted to do from high school! I didn’t know how big this field was or even what kind of combustion and engine research had been done; I just knew that I wanted to work on combustion engines and that’s the reason that I chose to become a mechanical engineer in the first place! My father was a mechanic and I think my love for engines started there! However, I never had a chance to start doing research in this field until I met Dr. Lawler and his research group in 2015. He is the most passionate person when it comes to research, especially engine research. I was very lucky to work with him and be part of his research group!

Chassis dyno test rig in a semi-anechoic chamber at Clemson.

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

MRB: At the Clemson Automotive Engineering department, we have an advanced powertrain lab that has different facilities. We have three engine-dynamometer test cells (ranging from 100 hp to 590 hp, all double-ended) that are used to test engines’ performance and durability, perform emissions and fuel efficiency assessments, test catalysts, and obtain engine operating maps. Also, we have a 500 HP Chassis dyno housed in a semi-anechoic chamber that allows different tests including driveline noise studies, fuel mileage analysis, sound measurements, etc. In addition, we have a road simulator and climate test chamber for testing of squeaks and rattles, vibration, structural durability, suspension characterization and fastener integrity.

KS: What are you working on now?

MRB: Currently, I am mainly focused on using modeling tools to study three main projects. The first project involves the use of thermal barrier coating in gasoline, diesel, and advanced combustion modes to reduce the heat losses during the combustion portion of the engine cycle and increase the thermal efficiency. For the second project, I am continuing the research that I was working on during my Ph.D. which was evaluating the combustion performance of Thermally Stratified Compression Ignition (TSCI) combustion to accelerate the design and development of this combustion concept. TSCI is a new advanced combustion mode and is fuel flexible which I believe makes it distinctive among other advanced combustion concepts. TSCI has only been tested with gasoline and ethanol fuels until now but ultimately, we want to test TSCI with other fuels such as methanol and natural gas. The third project is related to Partial Fuel Stratification (PFS), which is another combustion mode that I intend to investigate using CFD tools.

KS: What’s your favorite type of flame?

MRB: Well, I am going to take a step further and choose autoignition over the flame. Both premixed and diffusion flames are so complex and fascinating in their own way, but they always come with some emissions. I am not saying that the autoignition is completely emission-free but when comparing it to any flame we can say that it is relatively clean!

KS: What’s your favorite fuel?

MRB: Ethanol! It is renewable, fairly distributed around the world, and has a low carbon to hydrogen ratio. I think there are enough reasons to favor ethanol fuel!

Single cylinder engine setup at Clemson.

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

MRB: Combustion research is a very exciting and challenging field! My main advice in general is to always keep your knowledge up-to-date by following other researchers’ work and attending conferences! Also, try to learn the fundamentals such as thermodynamics and chemistry as deeply as you can because you will need them for the rest of your career.

KS: Is the IC Engine dead?

MRB: No and it never will be! The IC engine is not limited to the automotive sector and it has a very wide range of applications which make it almost impossible to be replaced with any other type of technology. It is even hard to believe that electric cars will replace IC engines in the vehicle market in the near future. According to an energy forecast, by 2023 electric cars will only make up about 6% of the total global vehicle market. 94% is a large number to be neglected!

Mozhgan hugging the single cylinder engine!

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

MRB: The focus of our research group is mainly on advanced combustion engines. Advanced combustion concepts have both higher efficiency and lower emissions, but these technologies require a lot of improvement in terms of controllability! Our goal is to achieve such controllability and benefit from the higher efficiency and lower emissions of advanced combustion concepts.

KS: How would you like to apply your combustion knowledge after you finish your post-doc?

MRB: I hope that I can use what I learned so far to have just a tiny role in helping the environment. I think regardless of your field, you are successful only if you can use your knowledge to somehow help society. “A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.” ~Kahlil Gibran

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