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University of Texas at Austin professor, Dr. Ron Matthews, received the Internal Combustion Engine Award (ICEA) from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in August 2009 at an awards ceremony in Lucerne, Switzerland. The ICEA is an annual award for lifetime achievement in stationary engine. He received $1,000 and a plaque.

Dr. Matthews received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from this department in 1971, his MS ME from Berkley in 1972, and a MPH in Public Health and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in 1977, also from Berkley. He came to work at UT ME in 1980, where he established the combustion and engine research program. He currently serves as Faculty Advisor to the local chapter of The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), and advises the student research competions these students compete in, including Challenge X and Formula Racing. Dr. Matthews received the Arch T. Colwell Merit Award from the Society of Automotive Engineers for his work on the first use of fractal geometry to model the combustion process within a spark ignition engine. He was elected an SAE Fellow in 2002 and is currently serving on the Board of Directors of SAE International. His work on fractal engine modeling was selected for inclusion in the Smithsonian’s permanent research collection.

From the ASME site, citation

The Internal Combustion Engine Award (previously the Diesel and Gas Engine Power Award) recognizes eminent achievement or distinguished contribution over a substantial period of time, which may result from research, innovation, or education in advancing the art of engineering in the field of internal combustion engines; or in directing the efforts and accomplishments of those engaged in engineering practice in the design, development, application, and operation of internal combustion engines.

An Interview with Professor Ron Matthews


ASME and SAE are both involved in automotive and engine research, but the areas of expertise do not overlap. SAE specializes in engines that move under their own power, engines found in cars, trucks, heavy equipment and airplanes. ASME focuses on the engineering of stationary engines as well as nautical engines. An example of an ASME researched engine would be one that is in natural gas pipeline compressors. These are very long pipelines and the technology is complex. SAE focuses its research on cars, trucks, aircraft and off-road equipment such as bulldozers. Both organizations have been in existence about 100 years. SAE helped the Wright Brothers with the technology needed to build that first airplane.

Dr. Matthews talks about Emissions Standards and Diesel Engine Design Issues, from an interview with Professor Matthews

Ron Matthews in the lab with diesel engine

Ron Matthews in the lab with diesel engine

Engine Research is an expensive research field, and at one time there were many such programs. However, in the 1960s, many universities dropped these programs because of the expense and the amount of space they required. UT ME never dropped the program, though. At that time, engineers thought that all the research that needed to be done on engine design had been already been done.

In the 1960s the first emissions standards laws were enacted, and suddenly there was a great need for engine research again. Currently, most research funding is in the heavy-duty diesel engine arena. Hybrid engine design is not very different from standard engine design, as these are smaller engines. Over the years, the emissions standards on cars and light trucks have gotten more stringent. Originally, engineers thought that the emissions from large trucks, because there weren’t nearly as many of them as light trucks and cars, would not pose a problem to the environment. That turned out to be a false assumption because heavy vehicles spend more time on the road than light vehicles. Their high mileage matters.

Heavy-duty vehicles are defined as having a gross weight of 8,500+ pounds. Gross weight is the weight of the vehicle plus its load, such as a trailer. Half-ton trucks are considered light trucks, but three quarter ton pickup trucks and larger are considered heavy trucks, as are commercial vehicles including 18-wheelers. The automotive industry is dealing with the question of responsibly for lower emission standards compliance. In some vehicles, such as Peterbilt trucks, the buyer decides which engine is installed, making the problem of lower emissions design work much more complex, since emissions compliance design involves both vehicle and engine design. Emissions standards are changing rapidly and will soon result in a sudden squeeze on heavy vehicles. The last change in emissions standards was enacted in 2007, and Dr. Matthews anticipates another change this year. Vehicle manufacturers have been able to meet the 2007 standards without using after treatments, which minimize the danger of harmful exhausts. He doesn’t believe it will be possible to do without using after treatments,. Read more about reducing admissions on

Emissions compliance is closely tied to fuel efficiency. In the coming years, we will see more hybrids in all types of vehicles. Any vehicle that combines two or more sources of power that can directly or indirectly provide propulsion power is termed a hybrid. Most hybrid cars on the road right now are gasoline-electric hybrids, which derive some of their power from the braking action. When asked about how heavy trucks will be able to carry large loads using hybrid technology, Dr. Matthews noted that range will be a problem. It will be a drain on batteries, and cars will need better ones. Lithium-ion batteries are still not powerful enough to meet the Tier 4 emissions standards mandated by 2015.

Electric cars have been around since the beginning of automotive history, and twenty years ago pure electric cars were designed and tested in Arizona and California. The GM EV1 was available as a leased car from 1996-1999, but GM was only able to sell 800 of them. It was very expensive to make and continue to support parts and repairs. When California loosened its 0 emissions policy, the cars were discontinued and most destroyed, although the company is now on target to release the Chevy Volt, an electric hybrid, later this year. An organization called the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) was established to develop electrochemical energy storage technologies which support commericialization of fuel cell, hybrid and electric vehicles.

Heavy-duty hydraulic engine diagram from the Environmental Protection Agency's web site.

Heavy-duty hydraulic engine diagram from the Environmental Protection Agency's web site.

Heavy-duty hydraulic hybrids generate high-pressure liquid and use that high pressure to generate torque to move the vehicle. When the driver applies the brakes, it generates high-pressure hydraulic fluid again, similar to an electric hybrid, but without using the battery. We will see this technology first in heavy-duty trucks, but don’t know if it will prove practical in small vehicles. That will take more research.

Dr. Matthews and his students have done research on hybrid engines, as in the Challenge X competition which lasted four years and was completed in 2008. Some of his engine modeling designs have been widely used on light duty trucks and cars. His research has changed the way engines are currently designed so that they can be sold in the United States, which has the highest emissions standards in the world.

Previous Winners

The award winners listed by year.
Year Winners Year Winners Year Winners
1967 Frederick P. Porter 1989 Richard D. Kieser 2007

Paul R. Danyluk


Leo T. Brinson, Jr. 1990 Daniel C. Garvey 2008 Dionissios N. Assanis
1971 Melvin J. Helmich 1991 Fred S. Schaub 2009 Ronald D. Matthews
1972 R. Rex Robinson 1992

John A. Kimberley    

Warren A. Rhoades

1993  Edward F. Obert    


Warren J. Severin


Otto A. Uyehara


William Spelcher


John C. Hallinan

1979 Helmuth G. Braendel 1997 Benny Ballheimer    
1981 Phillip S. Myers 1999 Serge Gratch    
1982 David B. Field 2000 Charles A. Amann    
1983 James H. Garrett 2002 Warren E. Snyder    
1984 Samuel S. Lestz 2003 Rodica A. Baranescu    
1985 John M. Bailey 2004 Humphrey Niven    
1986 Hugh A. Williams, Jr. 2005 Humphrey Niven    
1987 Garin M. VanDeMark 2006 N. Richard Dunteman    
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