Combustion Engineering

The addressing of engineering challenges related to combustion dynamics through both multi-scale modelling and experimental approaches. Activities falling within this research area will contribute to the advanced propulsion systems of the future, for example.

The Fossil Fuel Power Generation research area and the Combustion Engineering research area are products of dividing the Conventional Power Generation and Combustion research area. With the separation of this old research area, the Combustion Engineering research area is now able to set out a clear strategy to address the challenges that the area faces.

This is a mature research area, largely supported through collaborations within the aerospace and automotive sectors. This relationship is key to delivering efficient combustion modes to address current technological challenges, in a field where incremental changes can make a big difference.

Our role in this landscape will be to support research addressing longer-term combustion challenges focused on lowering emissions and improving efficiency within a whole-systems context. In view of the continuing relevance of combustion-based propulsion, we will maintain the level of investment relative to the whole EPSRC portfolio.

Specifically, by the end of the Delivery Plan period, we aim to have:

  • Worked with our innovation partners (e.g. the Aerospace Technology Institute and the Automotive Council) to deliver an effective and co-ordinated approach to the next generation of propulsion technologies where combustion plays a core role – requiring greater interdisciplinary working across relevant research areas 
  • The community continuing to work with industry and other academic communities to identify and address combustion research within a whole-systems approach, while addressing the need to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter and acoustic emissions from combustion-based propulsion modes
  • A community that tackles combustion challenges from a whole-systems perspective. It will address other engineering challenges in reducing emissions through greater integration with associated areas (e.g. Control Engineering or Electrical Motors and Drives/Electromagnetics)
  • The experimental and computational communities continuing to work together and integrate further to accelerate translation through to novel propulsion modes
  • The academic community working together to ensure appropriate equipment-sharing and access to facilities

There are a number of combustion research groups throughout the UK, supported through a range of funding. There are also a number of research groups with leading expertise in fuel injection, engines for hybrid electric vehicles and integrated engine design and development. Equally, UK research into novel thermo-cycles has been noted as having very big potential over longer-term horizons (Evidence source 1,2).

Advanced propulsion technologies play a role in supporting future competitiveness in the UK aerospace and automotive markets. Capturing a unique engineering capability in combustion will aid international competitiveness and reduce operational costs through better fuel efficiency. The broad evidence base around future challenges faced by the internal combustion engine and gas turbines points to a need for greater integration with more electric transportation modes (Evidence source 3,4,5,6).

Environmental performance targets highlight the need to reduce emissions from combustion. As part of the Flightpath 2050 agreement, the aerospace sector has committed to achieving a reduction in NOx and CO2 emissions and perceived noise (Evidence source 7).

The supply of skilled graduates is currently enhanced through specific Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) which align with this research area, specifically Gas Turbine Aerodynamics and Fluid Dynamics across Scales. Industry engagement is high and continues to nurture talent.

The National Centre of Excellence in Gas Turbine Combustion Aerodynamics, a partnership between government, industry and universities, will enable access to state-of-the-art facilities and so lead to greater acceleration of impact arising from fundamental combustion engineering research (Evidence source 8). A number of UK universities receive significant support from industry, with multiple centres hosting state-of-the-art equipment for testing and in-situ analysis. Diamond Light Source and the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source have the capability for experiments to simulate processing conditions or in-service thermo-mechanical loading.

Access to High Performance Computing (HPC) provision, both locally and nationally, is important for this research area. There is a strong computational community which benefits through access to HPC capacity such as ARCHER (Academic Research Computing High End Resource), (Evidence source 9).

Combustion Engineering has strong links to the research areas Fluid Dynamics and Aerodynamics, Continuum Mechanics, Chemical Reaction Dynamics, and Bioenergy. Integration with these is vital to ensure that the longer-term challenges can be addressed. There are further links to materials engineering portfolios, Performance and Inspection of Mechanical Structures and Systems, Control Engineering, Electrical Motors and Drives/Electromagnetics, Sensors and Instrumentation, and Particle Technology – these are important for novel integrated propulsion systems.

The area aligns to the Resilient and Productive Nation Outcomes (with potential impact in the medium/longer term) and, especially, the following Ambitions:

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

By supporting fundamental low Technology Readiness Level (TRL), longer-term challenges in combustion, and by integration with other research areas (e.g. Control Engineering, and Electrical Motors and Drives/Electromagnetics), research will contribute to novel propulsion systems in the longer term and so provide new disruptive technologies.

R5: Build new tools to adapt to and mitigate climate change

New low-emission propulsion technologies will contribute to delivering new tools that help mitigate climate change.

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.


We aim to maintain this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC support by research area in Combustion engineering (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Daniel Smith
Job title: Senior Portfolio Manager
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444297