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Personal profile


“Development of self-learning powertrains is crucial to deal with complexity and diversity of future ultra-clean and efficient vehicles and to minimize development time and costs.”

Research profile

Frank Willems is a Full Professor of Systems and Control Technology and Chair of Integrated Powertrain Control at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), a position, realized with support from TNO. His main research interests are control-oriented modeling of internal combustion engines and after-treatment systems, cylinder pressure-based combustion control, and integrated energy and emission management.

Frank focuses on the development of optimal and robust control methods for automotive powertrain systems. This requires integration of energy and emission management strategies at powertrain system level. This research is relevant for the automotive industry because the traditional methods will be no longer feasible. Driven by societal concerns about global warming and local air quality, ultra-efficient and –clean combustion concepts are studied. For these concepts, a robust and systematic approach is crucial to guarantee optimal performance under widely varying operating conditions. Robust control also enables the use of a wide range of renewable fuels. To minimize the development time and costs, model-based control methods play an increasingly important role. The ultimate goal is auto-calibration, in which the energy efficiency of the total powertrain will be optimized online by the application of smart sensors and route information in self-learning control concepts.

Academic background

Frank Willems obtained his MSc (1995) and PhD (2000) in Mechanical Engineering from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). He subsequently joined the Powertrain group of TNO Automotive, where he currently is a senior technical specialist in powertrain control. Since 2007, he has been a part-time staff member of the Control System Technology group, Department of Mechanical Engineering at TU/e in various roles. Over the years, Frank has been involved in a wide range of industrial research projects on clean engine technologies.

Frank is an active member of the IFAC Technical Committee Automotive Control and Associate Editor for Control Engineering Practice. He has acted as Member of international program committee for the IFAC Conference on ‘Engine and Powertrain Control, Simulation and Modeling (E-CoSM)' (2015,2018), IFAC Symposium ‘Advances in Automotive Control (AAC)’ (2016), ‘Symposium for Combustion Control (SCC)’ (2016-2018) and organized symposia such as ‘An Industrial View on Future Heavy-Duty Powertrain Control’ (2017). He has given numerous workshops, including ‘Development, testing and verification of ADAS and ADF' and is a contributor to the Topsector HTSM roadmap Automotive.

External positions

Visiting Professor, Linköping University

19 Aug 201919 Nov 2019

Senior research scientist, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research - TNO

6 Jun 2000 → …

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Research Output 1993 2019

10 Citations (Scopus)

Supervisory control of a heavy-duty diesel engine with an electrified waste heat recovery system

Feru, E., Murgovski, N., de Jager, A. G. & Willems, F. P. T., Sep 2016, In : Control Engineering Practice. 54, p. 190-201

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Supervisory Control
Diesel Engine
Waste heat utilization
Diesel engines
9 Citations (Scopus)

Optimal control for integrated emission management in diesel engines

Donkers, M. C. F., van Schijndel, J., Heemels, W. P. M. H. & Willems, F., 1 Apr 2017, In : Control Engineering Practice. 61, p. 206-216 11 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
Diesel Engine
Dynamic programming
Dynamic Programming
Diesel engines
Optimal Control
40 Citations (Scopus)

Cylinder pressure-based control in heavy-duty EGR diesel engines using a virtual heat release and emission sensor

Willems, F. P. T., Doosje, E., Engels, F. & Seykens, X. L. J., 2010, Proceedings of the 2010 SAE World Congress, 13-15 April 2010, Detroit, Michigan, USA. p. 2010-01-0564-1/12 (SAE International Journal of Engines)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

Engine cylinders
Diesel engines
Control systems
1 Citation (Scopus)

Is cylinder pressure-based control required to meet future HD legislation?

Willems, F., 1 Jan 2018, In : IFAC-PapersOnLine. 51, 31, p. 111-118 8 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
Engine cylinders
Pressure sensors
Cost reduction

Coordinated air-fuel path control in a diesel-E85 RCCI engine

Willems, F., Kupper, F., Ramesh, S., Indrajuana, A. & Doosje, E., 2 Apr 2019, SAE World Congress Experience (WCX 2019). Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), 11 p. 2019-01-1175. (SAE Technical Paper; vol. 2019-01-1175)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

Engine cylinders

Activities 2011 2018

Control Engineering Practice (Journal)

Frank P.T. Willems (Editorial board member)
Oct 2018

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activityScientific

Self-learning engines:from on-line optimization towards flex fuel engines

Frank P.T. Willems (Speaker)
6 Nov 2018

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talkProfessional


2018 Symposium for Combustion Control (SCC 2018)

Frank P.T. Willems (Member of programme committee)
1 Feb 201828 Jun 2018

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesWorkshop, seminar, course or exhibitionScientific

5th IFAC Conference on Engine and Powertrain Control, Simulation and Modeling

Frank P.T. Willems (Organiser)
2018 → …

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesConferenceScientific

Is cylinder pressure-based control required to meet future HD legislation?

Frank P.T. Willems (Speaker)
20 Sep 2018

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talkScientific


Student theses

Dynamic programming for integrated emission management in diesel engines

Author: van Schijndel, J., 31 Jan 2014

Supervisor: Donkers, M. (Supervisor 1), Willems, F. (Supervisor 2) & Heemels, W. (Supervisor 2)

Student thesis: Master

Mean value modelling of spark ignition engines for control purposes

Author: Willems, F., 30 Sep 1995

Supervisor: Kok, J. (Supervisor 1), Veldpaus, F. (Supervisor 2) & Wezenbeek, P. (External person) (External coach)

Student thesis: Master

Modeling a control valve for periodic pressure oscillations

Author: Hermans, S., 31 Aug 2002

Supervisor: de Jager, A. (Supervisor 1) & Willems, F. (Supervisor 2)

Student thesis: Master


Optimization of tip-in transients for a heavy duty diesel engine

Author: Tienstra, T., 30 Jun 2013

Supervisor: Criens, C. (Supervisor 1), Willems, F. (Supervisor 2), van Reeven, V. (Supervisor 2) & Steinbuch, M. (Supervisor 2)

Student thesis: Master

System identification and multi-pulse fuelling controller design for CYCLOPS engine

Author: Liu, Y., 31 Aug 2017

Supervisor: Willems, F. (Supervisor 1) & Seykens, X. (Supervisor 2)

Student thesis: Master