Aalto University: Collaboration between Wärtsilä and Aalto University is expanding – aiming for sustainable future solutions

Wärtsilä and Aalto have signed a new three-year partnership contract. The agreement covers three themes: research and development, business development and competence, recruitment and student cooperation. Long-term collaboration in the research of fossil-free fuels and their combustion phenomena continues, but the aim is to extend the cooperation to other Aalto research areas as well.

‘Wärtsilä and Aalto have a long history of collaboration, especially in engine research and project courses. The new agreement will serve as a continuation of this. At the same time, our aim is to open up new opportunities for collaboration and thus support solutions and know-how for a sustainable future’, says Kari Hietanen, Director of Corporate Relations and Legal Affairs at Wärtsilä.

‘The partnership aims at continuous interaction and improved results through working together. Collaboration with Wärtsilä and other leading companies in the field of technology will lead to new academic results and joint publications and will contribute to the success of companies that are important for society. In this way, we foster Finland’s competitiveness in academic and industrial arenas’, says Kari Tammi, Professor in Design of Mechatronic Machines at Aalto University.

From basic research to product development
One key driver of the partnership is the energy transition and the need to develop new zero-emission fuel solutions for the needs of maritime transport and power plants. Together with its international partners, Aalto University is a world-class pioneer in research on hydrogen, ammonia, methanol and other synthetic renewable fuels and their combustion phenomena.

‘We study the physical and chemical phenomena that affect the combustion of new fuels and techniques that enable pure combustion. As a leading company in the field, Wärtsilä provides insights into what makes sense for the future and is technically and economically feasible. The impact of research and support for product development is a big motivator for researchers’, says Martti Larmi, Professor of Energy Technology at Aalto University.

‘There are several options for clean fuels for internal combustion engines with hydrogen and ammonia at the top. Research and development now requires all inputs and expertise in order to make the transition to zero-emission fuels as quickly as possible’, says Jari Hyvönen, Director of the Wärtsilä Motorconcept Research Group.

Collaboration between Wärtsilä and Aalto extends to several areas. Professor Ville Vuorinen’s team studies the flow phenomena of the combustion of renewable fuels computationally.

‘We are increasingly using processsimulation in product development, which reduces the need for testing. To do this, we need, for example, functional models of how ammonia burns. Aalto plays a major role in the development of modelling tools’, Hyvönen says.

Professor Annukka Santasalo-Aarnio’s group focuses on the computational and experimental production of methanol made from hydrogen.

‘We also cooperate with Aalto in the field of automation technology. Many of the new fuels and combustion concepts require active combustion control to achieve the desired performance level’, Hyvönen says.

Collaboration on the development of hydrogen-based fuels will continue in the recently launched Zero Emission Marine project led by Wärtsilä. The aim of Business Finland’s Veturi programme is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from maritime transport by 60% by 2030.

‘The Zero Emission Marine project aims at sustainable solutions for energy production and maritime transport. The aim is to reduce the carbon footprint globally. As a system supplier, Wärtsilä has put together a whole range of solutions from sustainable fuels to business solutions’, Tammi says.

Continuous accumulation of know-how
Aalto and Wärtsilä also explore collaboration opportunities in areas such as virtual validation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, data analytics and advanced materials. Successful research collaboration between the university and the company requires continuity and the accumulation of know-how around a common issue.

‘Good research is not something you can start one day and then finish in a couple of years. It is important to build research groups that have a shared long-term aim and that are supported by the stability of key persons’, Hyvönen says.

Collaboration is also seamless in the utilisation of research equipment. Two Aalto researchers are currently conducting fuel jet research at the Wärtsilä Sustainable Technology Hub in Vaasa.

‘The discussion on the utilisation of infrastructures in future research projects is transparent. We are in the same boat and the spirit of doing things together is good. Joint research is very important for Aalto’s doctoral education. Lately, Wärtsilä has been actively recruiting our newly conferred doctors’, Larmi says.

The aim of Aalto University and Wärtsilä is to strengthen student and recruiting collaboration, and to develop joint operating models.

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