University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota: Department of Mechanical Engineering
Thomas E Murphy Engine Research Laboratory


Welcome to the Thomas E Murphy Engine Research Laboratory

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Graduate Research Openings

Please contact Prof. Will Northrop at with questions regarding the following opportunities.

1) Postdoc - Advanced Fuel Pretreatment Technologies (1 Position)

The University of Minnesota TE Murphy Engine Research Laboratory has an opportunity for a postdoctoral researcher to conduct experimental research in advanced fuel pretreatment technologies for natural gas engines. The research will be conduced under a new DOE-sponsored project entitled On-Demand Reactivity Enhancement to Enable Advanced Low Temperature Natural Gas Internal Combustion Engines. The goal of the proposed research program is to overcome the disadvantages of conventional NG engines by developing catalytic fuel pretreatment technology to control advanced low temperature compression ignition (LTCI) combustion. LTCI modes result in higher engine BTE through higher compression ratio combined with lean operation and lower heat loss. Instead of reforming, the project will develop oxidative coupling of methane, a catalytic process that converts methane to ethylene and ethane, both gaseous fuels with higher autoignition reactivity than methane. Elements of the research may include: a) leading reactor design and modeling activities; b) configuring and using advanced speciation instrumentation including gas chromatography and laser gas analysis; c) configuring single-cylinder engine experiments; d) guiding modeling efforts to compliment experimental data; and e) analyzing, processing and publishing project findings. Relevant areas of expertise include engine experimentation, combustion research, catalyst development, fuel kinetics, and aftertreatment. The position is a yearly appointment with renewal potential for two additional years (three years total). Applicants with experience in experimental engine research and catalytic reactor characterization/development are preferred. Excellent communication, writing management and leadership skills are also required for this position.

2) Fuel Reforming for Engine Applications (1 Position)

Internal combustion engine efficiency can be improved by controlling a fuel’s propensity to autoignite. It is desired to devise a way to change fuel properties on-board a vehicle to optimize reactivity as needed. One method is to use engine exhaust heat to reform fuels into smaller, less reactive molecules. Our group has developed a range of reforming technologies for engine applications under an array of funded projects. A Ph.D. student is needed to study the integration of reforming with engines using simulations and experiments. Students with some chemistry background are desired. A background in engines and combustion is an advantage but is not required.

3) Data Oriented Vehicle Powertrain Characterization (1 Position)

The advent of connected and automated hybrid electric vehicles has allowed increasing degrees of freedom for increasing efficiency and reducing emissions. Historical data logged from vehicles in combination with physics-based simulations can be used to optimize hybrid vehicles traveling along a specified route. A Ph.D. student is needed to participate in a collaboration with the Computer Science Department regarding routing and vehicle powertrain co-optimization. A student is sought with interests in data science and vehicle and engine data collection using micro-processor based controller. Experience with Python programming, Arduino/Raspberry Pi, and database software is desired.

News and Events

March 9th, 2018 - Professor Will Northrop receives $1.1M DOE Award to advance low temperature combustion technologies for higher-efficiency natural gas engines
February 21st, 2018 - Engine Lab Driving Development of Next Generation of Vehicles

December 19th, 2017 - Lab receives MnDOT and LRRB Funding Awards
November 9th, 2017 - UMN researchers look to tune up UPS trucks

September 13th, 2017 - Engines lab receives $1.4M grant to improve delivery vehicle energy efficiency

September 13th, 2017 - Professor William Northrop has been appointed as Director of the Thomas E. Murphy Engine Research Laboratory. He succeeds Professor David Kittelson as Director.

Professor Thomas E. Murphy joined the Mechanical Engineering Department after the end of World War II, after having performed engine research at the Naval Research Laboratory. He established a piston engine and gas turbine research and teaching laboratory on the fourth floor of the old ME building. Professors Perry Blackshear and Edward Fletcher became connected to the laboratory for their combustion related research activities. In 1970, Professor David Kittelson joined the group and, in collaboration with the Particle Technology Laboratory, brought engine emission and air pollution research to the lab. This led to formation of the Center for Diesel Research in 1994, in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Mines.

Professor Will Northrop arrived in Minnesota in 2011 and was instrumental in the design, construction, and commissioning of a new $5M state of the art engine research laboratory off Como Avenue and in fundraising for the facility. The Thomas E. Murphy Engine Research Laboratory was completed in 2014 and named in recognition of Professor Murphy’s pioneering contributions.
November 28th, 2016 - Professors Will Northrop and David Kittelson receive a TRB IDEA grant award to develop their Novel Vehicle Mass-Based Automated Passenger Counter For Transit Applications
November 2nd, 2016 - Professor Will Northrop receives $1.4M ARPA-E NEXTCAR Award to study Cloud Connected Delivery Vehicles: Boosting Energy Efficiency Using Physics-Aware Spatiotemporal Data Analytics and Real-Time Powertrain Control
January 15th, 2016 - Professors Will Northrop and David Kittelson receive a DOE grant award to study GDI particle emissions


We are located at: 2811 Weeks Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

(Note: We are on the northeast corner of the 27th Ave and Weeks Ave intersection)





Thomas E Murphy Engine Research Laboratory | 2811 Weeks Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414 | 612-625-6854 |