Lasers Added To Internal Combustion Engines

by Christopher Paul on April 22, 2011

Takunori Taira is one of the Japanese researchers looking to replace spark plugs with lasers in internal combustion engines to gain fuel efficiencies.

Conventional spark plugs sit on top of the cylinder and only ignite the air-fuel mixture close to them. The relatively cold metal of nearby electrodes and cylinder walls absorbs heat from the explosion, quenching the flame front just as it starts to expand.

Lasers, Taira explains, can focus their beams directly into the center of the mixture. Without quenching, the flame front expands more symmetrically and up to three times faster than those produced by spark plugs.

Equally important, he says, lasers inject their energy within nanoseconds, compared with milliseconds for spark plugs. “Timing — quick combustion — is very important. The more precise the timing, the more efficient the combustion and the better the fuel economy,” he says.

There are some challenges, of course, but if electric vehicles aren’t ubiquitous by the time this technology is perfected, we just might be able to cut down pollution a little more.

Laser sparks revolution in internal combustion engines – Science Blog via The Brooks Review

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