By on February 27, 2015

laserignition

A team at Princeton Optronics working on replacing conventional spark plugs with laser igniters has produced a running engine and they claim that replacing spark ignition with lasers could improve the efficiency of gasoline powered engines by 27%. Considering that the basic design of the spark plug hasn’t really changed in over a century, this would be a revolutionary step, frickin’ lasers or not.

While the first spark plug was said to be invented in the 1830s by American Edmond Berger, the first commercially successful spark plug was likely the 1903 Lodge Igniter, invented by Sir Oliver Lodge of the UK. An early advancement, the use of porcelain ceramic as an insulator, is attributed to Henry Ford’s associate and riding mechanic Ed “Spider” Huff. As the story goes, Huff, who had worked with Ford at the Edison Illuminating Co., used toothmaking material from a dentist. Two of the best known American brands of spark plugs were started by the same Frenchman, Albert Champion, a motorcycle racer who supplemented his income selling handcrafted spark plugs to his fellow racers. Champion moved to Flint, Michigan to race for a local company and in 1904 he started the Champion Ignition Company. After he lost control of Champion to his backers, with the help of the Buick company in 1908 he started AC Spark Plug Co. (for Albert Champion), which was eventually absorbed into General Motors.

Since then, while the materials used and number and layout of electrodes have changed, the way the fuel/air mixture has been ignited, with a high voltage current jumping a gap between two electrodes, causing a spark, has not. While it has worked well enough for over 110 years, there are some drawbacks to spark ignition. One of the better known phenomena is the fact that due to the spark plug’s location on the periphery of the combustion chamber, not all of the fuel is combusted. The flame simply doesn’t spread fast enough to keep up with the movement of the piston. The result is less than ideal from power, efficiency and pollution standpoints.

Working under a modest $150,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program, Princeton Optronics, a Trenton, New Jersey firm, has demonstrated a working gasoline engine fired with laser ignition. In addition to being able to focus the laser so that it ignites the charge from the middle of the combustion chamber, laser ignition can be timed with greater precision than a conventional spark ignition. It can also cycle faster than the fastest electronically triggered spark plug, allowing for the possibility of multiple firings and those multiple ignitions can be focused at different parts of the combustion chamber to ensure complete burning. Princeton Optronics says that the running engine showed a 27% improvement in combustion efficiency. They also say that the use of laser ignition will allow for a leaner fuel/air ratio, which will reduce emissions.

Back in 2011, Toyota announced that they were working on a laser ignition system, but they never demonstrated a working prototype. Princeton Optronics showcased their own system at an energy innovation summit in Washington, D.C. last week sponsored by ARPA-E. The company demonstrated that their system is capable of withstanding the heat, pressure and high RPM found in a gasoline fired internal combustion engine. While it has yet to be proven to be practical under the hood in automotive applications, Princeton Optronics has already been contacted by a ship company about retrofitting the engines on some of their boats. The shipping industry has come under pressure to clean up their hitherto mostly unregulated emissions. Working under a Navy contract, Princeton Optronics is also working on implementing laser ignition for aircraft engines, where reliability is a critical factor.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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103 Comments on “Princeton Optronics’ Laser Ignition Could Boost ICE’s Efficiency by 27%...”


  • avatar
    pbxtech

    27% is substantial. That would be hugely disruptive. It would certainly end diesel as a fuel.

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      A 27% enhancement in combustion efficiency will likely lead to <5% enhancement in overall thermodynamic efficiency.

    • 0 avatar
      toplessFC3Sman

      27% has to be a combination of effects, such as going from a homogeneous, stoichiometric, naturally aspirated engine to a downsized, boosted, lean stratified engine. The laser ignition probably helps them reach that goal more easily, but you can still do that type of combustion system with a spark plug. There’s no way that you could get 27% improvement by just dropping this into the engine in place of a spark plug – combustion efficiency (the amount of energy released by the fuel during combustion) with spark plugs hovers between 95 & 98%… even if this got it to 100%, you wouldn’t see 27% overall improvement

      • 0 avatar
        carve

        Yeah…I don’t get how they’re making that claim. Maybe it closes 27% of that last 2% gap.

        • 0 avatar
          CarnotCycle

          The efficiency gain here in combustion is not necessarily efficiency of the laser vs. spark plug converting electrical energy to output I’d guess, but in the laser’s optical frequency being better temperature-tuned (blackbody) to couple the emitted energy into activating the desired chemical reaction.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      How dare the govt. waste taxpayers $$…

      A bit skeptical about the claim of 27%, but if it is even just 5-10%, would be a significant gain.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      Tricky here. An ICE is about 17% efficient, so an improvement of 27% – let’s say an even 30% – would make an ICE about 22% efficient. Any improvement is good but this isn’t earth shattering.

      For reference an electric motor’s efficiency is in the 90% range.

    • 0 avatar
      old blue

      Total efficiency would be much lower.

      The 27% is COMBUSTION efficiency only.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Boats? Aren’t almost all non-pleasure boats with piston engines diesels? Or are they looking at augmenting compression ignition with laser ignition?

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    Interested to know how this works. I guess the laser is strong enough to burn carbon deposits off of whatever lens they use? Is there a sacrificial aim point that the laser hits or does it just zap the piston head?

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      Carbon deposits are a pretty serious thermodynamic dead-end; you’ve got to dump a LOT of energy into them to get over the activation energy hump. It would take a seriously powerful laser to burn them off.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        notapreppie – –

        Yeah. I was wondering about how that 27% would hold up after 50,000 miles of various deposits clinging to the laser’s optical port. Measuring 27% in a clean test apparatus on a lab bench (the alleged “actual “engine) and putting it into a long-term test vehicle in the upper Midwest, — including winters — is quite something else.

        ==============

  • avatar

    27% in the lab would translate much lower in real application typically, but this still is likely a huge advancement as an early prototype. Depending on exactly how it works, I would think you might be able to retrofit it.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    What a waste of government funds – $150K down the toilet to give us frickin’ lasers in our cars.

    What is the Department of Energy and Obama and the government and….ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….

    ^^^^^

    Satire – I think this is pretty amazing and a good use of $150K. Tells me this wouldn’t be very hard to implement if the R&D to build a working prototype is that inexpensive

    • 0 avatar

      I’m of the opinion that if the EPA and DOT were more like DARPA and Lawrence Livermore type labs instead of being the environmental and safety police maybe we’d have more advancements in pollution control / alternative energy and safety.

      I’d much rather see stuff like this or the polywell fusion reactor being funded than pay the salaries and pensions of hundreds of thousands of Lois Lerners.

      To my knowledge, not a single technology for safety or emissions control has come out of a non military government agency.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        We wouldn’t need so many Lois Lerners if Congress could resist helping themselves and their patrons by larding up the tax code with insanely complicated rules that make it so difficult to administer. How in the world can the IRS really be able to determine the political/apolitical percentage spending split of a not-for-profit?

    • 0 avatar
      70Cougar

      Seriously, they could be doing something useful, like working on putting the lasers on sharks’ heads!

  • avatar
    wmba

    They’ve been at this since the 1970s. Everyone.

    What makes this version better? That’s the point.

    Just google “laser ignition for ic engines” and you’ll see what I mean by everyone.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    way cool concept. most ships use bunker fuel – really low grade stuff – which is one of the reasons they pollute so much. wonder if those engines are like diesels (compression ignition) or gasoline (with spark ignition)?

    could they design an engine that ran on diesel but ignited like gasoline using laser ignition?

    • 0 avatar
      shipping96

      Ship engines that burn bunkers are compression ignition. But as some had mentioned above there are a lot of new vessels that are natural gas powered. While the engines that I know of (Wartsila) are “dual fuel” engines (so compression ignition; the same medium speed engine can burn heavy fuel oil or natural gas) perhaps there are some others under development that might benefit from spark ignition?

  • avatar
    turf3

    Sounds like the usual over-hype.

    The concept is probably valid.

    But the headline makes it sound like fuel efficiency at the wheels will increase by 27%, which I can absolutely guarantee is not the case. What’s really happened here is that they have demonstrated under certain operating conditions (which will not be the full range of operating conditions experienced in a real engine) that one component of the total process has an efficiency improvement compared to whatever they are using as a baseline.

    If you take an inefficient operating condition and then tune your process to maximize efficiency at that one operating condition, without reference to all the others, then you can get data that look very impressive when published in a non-peer-reviewed symposium.

    When they say “yet to be proven to be practical under the hood in automotive applications” that’s a masterful understatement. What they really mean is, “has theoretical promise, millions of dollars, tens of years, and hundreds of engineers will need to be applied to it to turn it into a real-world solution”.

    There’s a test I would like to apply to any journalist who reports claims of efficiency improvements on engines. Ask that person, “Do you understand and can you explain the concept of Carnot efficiency in a heat engine?” If no, then they have no business repeating PR claims of efficiency improvements. If they do, then they may have sufficient background to ask the right questions to find out how much is hype and how much isn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      This. About Carnit efficiency.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      I’d really like to bet that 27% and the explanation “outruns the flame” are pure marketing to hacks who would never pass your carnot test (at least in combination. I don’t think anyone will ship laser ignition if it will only be used in gasoline engines).

      Still might be interesting (and as wmba told us, *everybody* us trying it). From wiki, it seems that it would be especially huge with CNG (don’t expect any significant gains with gas). No idea how you deal with “plug” fouling with CNG: that seems like a killer issue with laser ignition (check the gas and clean the plugs).

      Note that it is possible that the reason nobody has done this (outside the lab) is that there wasn’t a fuel available that made sense. Once the Saudis get tired of selling lots of gas cheap, we could easily find ourselves wanting to burn CNG instead of gasoline. Will laser ignition be ready?

    • 0 avatar

      Do I need to understand thermodynamics in order to tell people that a company is claiming this or that?

      BTW, wouldn’t it have been more helpful to explain to people what Carnot’s equation means?

      From engineeringtoolbox.com:

      “A ideal reversible cycle where heat is taken in at a constant upper temperature and rejected at a constant lower temperature was suggested by Sadi Carnot. The theoretically most efficient heat engine cycle, the Carnot cycle, consists of

      two isothermal processes and
      two adiabatic processes
      Since the second law of thermodynamics states that not all supplied heat in a heat engine can be used to do work, the Carnot efficiency limits the fraction of heat that can be used.

      The Carnot efficiency can be expressed as

      μC = (Ti – To) / Ti (1)

      where

      μC = efficiency of the Carnot cycle

      Ti = temperature at the engine inlet (K)

      To = temperature at engine exhaust (K)

      The wider the range of temperature, the more efficient becomes the cycle. The lowest temperature is limited by the temperature of the sink of heat – if it is the atmosphere or the ocean, river or whatever available. Normally the lowest temperature available is in the range 10 – 20 oC. The maximum temperature is limited by the metallurgical strength of available materials.”

      • 0 avatar
        turf3

        No, you (Ronnie) don’t have to understand thermodynamics, but the people at “New Scientist” (grossly misnamed, by the way) should have asked some questions instead of just copying Princeton Optronics’ press release.

        It would have been helpful, however, in the TTAC writeup to have pointed out that these kinds of claims are usually: a) overstated; b) not taking into account the actual thermodynamic system; c) not realizable in the real world for the reasons I mentioned above. Instead you just say “not yet proven in automotive applications” which implies that it must be coming pretty soon, just needs a little refinement. But the truth is almost certainly the other way round.

        • 0 avatar
          turf3

          Also, the reference you cited has it somewhat wrong as using normal values for engine inlet and outlet temps (say, 300K inlet, 2000K exhaust) would give a rather large negative value for Carnot efficiency. The actual values are the highest temp and lowest temp in the cycle, in other words the term (Ti-To) should be the other way round, (To-Ti). And to be strictly correct, I believe Th (highest temp in the cycle) should be combustion temp, although it’s been a while since I studied IC engine thermodynamics.

          The point of my comment is that members of the press reporting on subtle technical matters like IC engine efficiency need to have enough understanding of the concepts to ask meaningful questions, or if not in contact with someone to ask them, at least to point out in their reporting that there are likely major inconsistencies in what is being claimed.

          • 0 avatar
            turf3

            And finally, let’s take a look at the headline.

            “Princeton Optronics’ Laser Ignition Could Boost ICE’s Efficiency by 27%”

            When the reality is

            “Princeton Optronics Claims Potential Improvement in Combustion Efficiency; Practicality, Real World Results TBD”

            OK, you need a headline to get people’s interest, but I think the text should point out a lot more of the second summary than it does.

          • 0 avatar
            ckb

            Since it’s nitpicking day…

            ““Princeton Optronics’ Laser Ignition Could Boost ICE’s Efficiency by 27%”

            When the reality is

            “Princeton Optronics Claims Potential Improvement in Combustion Efficiency; Practicality, Real World Results TBD””

            I’ll go out on a limb and claim that “could” and “potential” will be interpreted by most to have the same meaning. The major difference is the number of syllables you decided to use.

            Second, “Princeton Optronics says that the running engine showed a 27% improvement in combustion efficiency.” I don’t see why you can’t put that number in the headline because if you don’t, its the very first question EVERYONE will have. Perhaps you’d prefer something like: “Significant efficiency increase claimed with this one weird trick! Click to find out how much!!!”

            Anyway, carry on good white knight, you’re our only defense against being slightly more interested in an article for a couple minutes.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      It’s important to note that the paper is addressing/studying engines, not cars; therefore, the notion of discussing efficiency at the wheels is nonsense. It’s only a topic here because this website is about cars.

      • 0 avatar
        turf3

        “Team claims output power up to 15% greater than input power!”

        Buried deep in the body of the article:

        “Of course, it’s yet to be seen whether this is practical in an actual automobile.”

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    $150k is nothing in research these days. if they came up with the first working prototype of an engine then i would say it was well worth the cost.

  • avatar
    John

    Often the distance between “could” and “does” is measured in light-years.

  • avatar
    jmo

    It’s the devil! We need to get back to points and distributors like God intended!

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Stupid questions from someone who doesn’t want to research the answer:

    1) How long did it take for electronic fuel injection to become popular and cheap enough to use in every car from the time it was first prototyped to the time it took to get commoditized?

    2) What are the technological challenges that face this vs what faced EFI?

    I’m hoping someone’s already done this work and can provide the cliff notes answer. This sounds great, but we all know there’s a helluva lot of work that has to happen from here for this to become the next EFI.

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      First commercial vehicle that was actually sold with electronic fuel injection was in 1967. Mechanical fuel injection was used in the 50’s. And carbs lasted until 1994 in some trucks. To answer your question, quite a while. After the mid 80’s it just became a cost issue vs anything practical.

      • 0 avatar
        JPaulV

        Carburetors are still being used in marine applications and carburetors are still available new from companies such as Edelbrock. When I owned a nice 1961 Studebaker Lark I had a helluva time finding a good single barrel carburetor to keep the car operating.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    “Princeton Optronics says that the running engine showed a 27% improvement in combustion efficiency.”

    So, the burning itself is 27% more efficient. How much more efficient is the whole engine?

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      You would probably only see a decrease in emissions, I doubt any real power increase would be seen and as for the overall efficiency of the engine what else would change unless the increase in combustion efficiency could be leveraged against a reduction in displacement and/or allow the engine to produce more power lower in the rev range which would require less engine speed further reducing emissions and improving fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      Frankie the Hollywood Scum

      Like every engineering answer. It depends. Combustion efficiency is measured by stuff burned divided by stuff in x 100. So it depends on the engine in question’s starting combustion efficiency and magnitude of losses to pumping, friction, and radiant heat.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    It seems that they are spinning this just a tad too much with the 27% increase in combustion efficiency. Today, all gasoline engines burn gas with 99+% combustion efficiency which means that 99+% of the hydrocarbons in the fuel are converted to CO2 prior to treatment in the catalytic converter. Assuming that they are talking about the 1% residual unburned fuel, they only have to combust 0.3 of the unburned fuel to make this bold statement. This would mean next to nothing in additional power output unless the compression ratio can be increased by using this type of ignition. It does significantly reduce the amount of pollutants to clean up.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    PEW PEW PEW! Lazer everything!

    Spark plug: $12
    Lazer module: $3,500

    Having a BMW 325 xDrive Laserinjection: Priceless.

  • avatar
    raph

    I wonder if this could help make a rotary gasoline engine viable again? One of the issues with a rotary is the hole required for a spark plug which allows fuel to slip past the end seal as it swipes past the hole for the plug. anything that can reduce the size and depth of the hole would help.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I was thinking the same thing. I actually have a design concept that does not require those spark plug holes–the concept doesn’t necessarily require lasers, but they certainly could be a part of it.

  • avatar
    olivebranch2006

    Why not have two spark plugs per cylinder on opposite ends of the combustion chamber? Wouldn’t that improve efficiency? If the fuel is ignited from two points it would burn evenly to the middle of the chamber. Has any car maker done this with improvements in combustion?

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      Yes, dual spark plug installations have been around for many decades.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        >Yes, dual spark plug installations have been around for many decades.

        Yup. On the Chrysler Gen III Hemi for example, each cylinder has 2 plugs, a primary and secondary. the first fires for the power stroke when the piston is near TDC and the other fires later on the same stroke to reduce emissions and even add a bit of power in the process.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      You don’t want two competing flame fronts meeting in the chamber (this is what gives rise to detonation), usually in a twin plug arrangement the secondary plug is used to help clean up the combustion process.

      Generally if the engine can keep the air/fuel mixture excited (tumble and swirl through the intake or a sufficient enough quench area to create turbulence or a fine spray with direct injection) a second plug isn’t needed.

      If there isn’t a process to keep the mixture excited the fuel can fall out of suspension and fail to burn or burn completely. The elevated temperature and turbulence after combustion allows this unburnt fuel to be ignited by a secondary ignition system cleaning it up.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        “ou don’t want two competing flame fronts meeting in the chamber (this is what gives rise to detonation)”

        I don’t agree. Detonation occurs when the air/fuel mixture combusts too soon. If two spark plugs generate a pair of flame fronts, there is still no preignition. Rather, because more locations are closer to the origin of a flame front, the combustion process ends sooner, which improves efficiency.

        • 0 avatar
          Kevin Jaeger

          Mercedes used two spark plugs per cylinder in their M112 and M113 engines up until 2005, too.

          They revised that engine to use a single spark plug after 2005, but I understand the single plug sparks multiple times during the ignition stroke.

          It would appear there are indeed still gains to be found by improving the ignition in the combustion chamber.

        • 0 avatar
          JPaulV

          Detonation is the uncontrolled combustion of the fuel-air mixture in the combustion chamber. It is usually caused by a hot spot igniting the fuel before the spark ignites the fuel. The two flame fronts meet and cause a detonation. Detonation is a sudden explosion of the fuel and is related to the octane of gasoline or centane number for diesel fuel. The higher the numbers the more resistant is the fuel to detonation or uncontrolled burning.

          An ideal combustion chamber shape is hemispherical with the ignition source in the top center. It is also the shape most resistant to detonation.
          As an aside, if you want to remove carbon deposits in the combustion chamber add a bit of water mixed with ethylene glycol.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      The current Chrysler Hemi engines use two plugs per cylinder, and the last several years of the old Ford Lima 2.3 (the Pinto engine – although it was in the Ranger by that time) used two plugs per cylinder. It’s not a new idea.

      Where twin-plug arrangements are seen, they are usually on engines with two valves per cylinder for the simple reason that you can’t put the spark plug in the middle. A modern 4-valve-per-cylinder engine has a beautiful spot for the spark plug dead center.

      Improving the ignition system, on its own, is unlikely to make a tremendous difference in engine efficiency. As long as we are stuck with using stoichiometric air/fuel ratio to keep a 3-way catalyst happy, the cheapest ordinary spark plug will work just as well as the most expensive one, and I see no reason why using a laser would appreciably change this.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Nissan had dual plug engines back in the 80s with their NAPS-Z engine used in their cars and pickups. Of course this was back before distributor-less ignition systems so they used a funky distributor with 8 spark plug terminals, two coil terminals and a bi-level rotor to route the spark from the correct coil to the correct plug. Mazda did the same thing with their Rotary in the 70’s.

        International Harvester used a dual ignition system on the Firetruck applications of their LV series of engines. Drag racers have also used dual plugs going way back. In each of those cases they used dual distributors and it was simply a redundant ignition system. For the Fire Trucks it was in the days of points and it was considered unacceptable for their engine not to start due to ignition system problems.

        The 3 way cat and the emissions control requirements that mandate their use means that “running lean” can’t be done.

        • 0 avatar
          turf3

          The 1929 Nash Twin Ignition engines had two spark plugs per cylinder. There may have been earlier examples. You know, not everything was invented after 1970.

  • avatar
    jfbramfeld

    “The flame simply doesn’t spread fast enough to keep up with the movement of the piston.”

    OK, why am a spending 20 cents a gallon for gasoline that slows combustion enough to prevent engine knock? I have been told for years that engine knock is caused by gas burning too fast. I suppose there is a good explanation, but this sounds exactly like a thousand other announcements that are literally forgotten forever after 24 hours.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      It’s not that high octane burns slower- it’s that it requires higher temperatures to begin burning, which allows you to run a higher compression ratio.

      • 0 avatar
        jfbramfeld

        You could be right, but there a lot of lay person suggestions out there that suggest something similar to this comment from the BP website:

        Engine Knock Facts For your workshop

        When does knock occur?

        Knock normally occurs at high throttle settings or when accelerating a manual at low engine speed

        What causes the “pinging” noise?

        The sound is made when a small portion of the petrol/air mixture reaches a critical temperature and pressure, causing it to explode or detonate rather than burn smoothly.

        The above language is all over the place. In fairness, you can also read that the lower octane can result in premature ignition. I think both things happen. If this statement is correct, it is not clear why a laser causing a larger ignition starting point is necessarily a good thing.

  • avatar

    Obviously Princeton has no interest in publicizing this, but there are two alternatives, one in production (a Automotive News PACE supplier innovation award finalist for 2014-15, Delphi’s multi-charge ignition) and the other in pre-production (Federal Mogul’s ACIS corona discharge). These can cycle multiple times and spark longer to match repeated fuel injections and so offset the flameout when there’s insufficient heat to get injections burning from the combustion of the previous injection. One of the race people can help, but multiple cycle plugs have been around for a long time albeit not up to the speed of these two ignition systems.

    “Produced a running engine” is quite a few steps [= 6+ years if everything pans out] removed from being on the road in a production engine, given the timing of engine programs. Furthermore the 27% claim defies comprehension, given the losses to friction and so on elsewhere in the engine. I don’t even see sufficient losses compared to a state-of-the-art production engine that would let them claim 27% improvement in even the combustion aspect of an engine.

    Still, drivetrain engineers welcome more options. Lasers may eat too much electricity, and not be able to survive in the engine compartment environment; they may not “spark” that well in a hot, turbulent air-fuel-combustion product mix.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    In the real world, that 27% will actually be 5-7%, still something an engineer would sell his grandmother for.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    If the accuracy of some of the statements in this article have credence, then research into this has been ongoing more or less for 30+ years.

    Inroads are little and far between. Maybe the guys at Princeton are after more backing (cash).

    As for the efficiency gains, they are purely speculative. If a gasoline ICE powered engine can in fact improve it’s efficiency by 27% would place it up with some of those ultra efficient diesels engines powering container ships.

    I do question the credibility of the claims.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @BAFO – “ultra efficient” diesel container ships can emit the cancer/asthma causing pollutants in one year, equal to 50 million cars.

      Except there’s lots more to car ownership than ultimate FE. Diesels offer poor value over all, I hate to say, all things considered.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        http://www.dieselistedefrance.fr/

        Have a read, if you can. It seems the French might have over reacted to the assumed diesel pollution rout in Paris.

        They are finding out it is the older vehicles that are the emission “vandals”. Older vehicles are not just diesel. Remember you beloved gasoline engine is a larger polluter than the modern diesel.

        Now gasoline GDI engine are the real culprits in polluting cancer causing particulates. They emit up to 1000 times the particulates of a modern diesel.

        Shipping is an issue. But since diesel has historically been deemed more of a heavy transport fuel, little has been done until recently to clean it up.

        You had the whining farmers, construction, transport and other industries complaining about the impost of pollution control.

        If gasoline was such a great source of energy the world wouldn’t rely on diesel and heavy oils for much of the heavy lifting required for out lifestyle.

        Here’s a link on the future direction for the heavy oil engines used in shipping. Shipping constitutes around 3% of all global pollutants, which is much smaller than that emitted by individual motor vehicles.

        http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/transport/shipping/index_en.htm

        So, global shipping (that’s all the world’s ocean going shipping) can deliver more tonnage at the moment and emit less pollutants than just the motor vehicles in the US. Look at the amount of material moved across oceans. Not bad, but it will be even better.

        Clean it up they have. Now the modern diesel is a cleaner engine that the gasoline engine.

        And in a car can deliver hybrid FE. Have a read of the link below.

        You luddites, people like you DiM are the reason for the slow progress of late in the US. People like you should move to another country so the US can become more competitive. How does Bolivia sound. They even speak Spanish! Remember the CD you used???? Gotcha!

        http://www.dieselforum.org/social-news/who-needs-a-hybrid-when-there-s-a-diesel-jetta-

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          @BAFO – The French gov is backing away from diesels before its citizens realize what devastating ill effects diesel pollutants has had on cancer rates, asthma, birth defects and stillborn babies.

          But there’s still no viable replacement for tremendous diesel power output in heavy equipment, locomotives, ocean liners and container ships. But intensive emissions equipment must be forced on all diesels, no exceptions.

          Except passenger cars don’t NEED diesel power, like not at all. Nor do they need GDI. Diesel cars may vanish in the coming years, even if gasoline engines don’t improve FE. Some small percent of consumers will still desire diesel cars, but that’s like those that have to have a sunroof or manual trans.

    • 0 avatar
      shipping96

      @ DenverMike – you’re right, the ship engines put out a lot of nasty pollution. But that is the fault of the high sulfur dirty fuel that they utilize rather than the engines themselves. Bunker fuels are essentially just a step or two above asphalt in the refining process.

  • avatar
    rockets

    I want this Star Wars engine in my new Honda Landspeeder ASAP.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      “Look at this…ever since the HR-V came out, they just aren’t in demand.”

      –A B&Ber, lamenting the below-book price he got on his CR-V with hover conversion kit

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I enjoyed the tidbit about Champion, never realized where the “AC” in AC Delco came from.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Great. So now instead of a nasty shock when an ignition wire goes bad I’m going to get my hand vaporized.

  • avatar

    Not impressed. I am waiting for compact mobile nuclear reactor soon to be available. I do not remember which company announced it, it might be Lockheed, but it is not ARPA project.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I doubt that this will ever see the light (ahem) of day in automotive applications – the gains are too small for the potential cost involved. A lower rolling resistance tire (yet with good traction) would save a lot more fuel in the real world.

    This could have a place in military applications, though.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Someone needs to go put this on an LMP1. It’s a shame Toyota isn’t following up. From what I’ve read, their normally aspirated LMP1 v8 is incredibly efficient, so it would be interesting to see what going to laser ignition would do for it.

  • avatar

    Thanks Obama.

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    Engines with freakin’ lasers in their heads!

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Running lean does not improve emissions, at least from the modern standpoint. Running lean does increase MPG but because it increases emissions it can’t be used even though it is entirely possible with old technology. GM’s TBI system from the 80’s have a lean cruise mode designed into the system but it is turned off on all production vehicles they have sold. If you do enable it the vehicle will get improved MPG but emissions will increase and if the vehicle has a cat it’s life will be severely reduced and it can even cause collateral damage do to the heat generated.

    Certain models of the original Honda Insight did use a lean cruise mode to achieve the MPG that it did but it required a special cat that cost way ore than a standard one and it enabled that mode in very limited circumstances.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @Scoutdude,
      It’s all according to how you define lean.

      If an engine is tuned lean it can actually run richer and use more fuel.

      I actually had this issue arise when the tune of one of my banks was running leaner than the other.

      One side was running lean, we ran it slightly rich and wa’la my FE improved, but marginally after re-tuning the lean side.

      But, if you are talking lean as in introducing fuel as close to TDC as possible ie, GDI you are totally correct.

      But this increase pollutants and particulates into the exhaust, to the point now a GDI actually runs “dirtier” than current CRDs.

      Running lean has its problems with cooling, etc.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    My cat is only 5% more efficient since the conversion. And he’s getting fat since he doesn’t actually have to chase the mice anymore.

  • avatar
    carve

    Saab, quite a few years back, had a prototype where the spark plug ground was a nub in the center of the piston. This would allow ignition to start right in the center of the cylinder, and would be less prone to fouling.

    The challenge is the constantly changing spark plug gap, both through wear and through piston motion. I imagine electronic controls and a sufficiently powerful spark would make this practical now days though. It seems to offer many of the advantages this system offers while be less susceptible to carbon fouling.


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