Nissan Uses Neutrons to Reveal Crankcase


Nissan Motor Co. and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency have jointly developed a neutron imaging system that they claim has provided the worlds first precise visualization of oil flow in an automotive engine operating at high speed.

Combining neutron radiography to allow viewing through lightweight metals with high-speed imaging technology to capture dynamic events, the imaging system enables researchers to study the characteristics of lubricating oil as it circulates through an automobile engine or drivetrain. The characteristics includes circulation and delivery of oil to each engine component, oil splash from the crankshaft, and oil delivery to the final drive gear.

The agency together with Nissan will conduct visualization test studies to determine the causes of friction loss from the recorded behavior of internal lubricating oil flow. The studys goal is to redesign engines for optimal oil circulation with reduced friction to reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in vehicles.

They are conducting the joint research at the agencys Tokai R&D Center, a research facility that conducts neutron beam experiments and radiation research. The collaborative research is part of the Nissan Green Program 2010, which aims to find ways to carry out real-world reductions in carbon dioxide transmissions.

According to the JAEA, the neutron visualization process starts with a neutron beam that goes through the test material – an engine crankcase in this case – and into a converter on the other side. Inside the converter, the beam reflects off a mirror at an angle. When reflected, the beam becomes a visible light that is processed by an image intensifier. A high-speed video camera captures the image data, which researchers can then view on a computer screen.

High speed imaging technology involves recording rapidly changing events with a high-speed video camera and using slow-motion playback or analysis of individual image frames to measure aspects such as speed and density.

The JAEA was established in October 2005 in Tokaimura, in the Ibaraki Prefecture of Japan.

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