By on October 10, 2011

Federal Mogul's new Advanced Corona Ignition System

Last May, at the international Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics, a joint Japanese/Bulgarian team of researchers introduced ceramic based lasers that are compact, durable and powerful enough to be used to ignite a fuel/air mixture in a combustion engine. At the time, the researchers announced that they were working with spark plug maker Denso on commercializing the idea. That announcement was followed up by word that Mazda’s next generation “16X” rotary engine will exploit the compact size of those laser igniters. Now Michigan auto supplier Federal Mogul has released news about a US patent on their Advanced Corona Ignition System, or ACIS. Instead of a spark (or laser) the ACIS uses a high-intensity burst of plasma to ignite the fuel.

The corona can be controlled more than an electrical spark, allowing it to spread across the combustion chamber, resulting in a more complete burn. Federal Mogul says that using ACIS will improve fuel mileage by as much as 10% over conventional spark plug ignition, in part due to greater timing precision. That precision is said to be synergistic with direct injection. ACIS will also, F-M claims, allow leaner fuel/air mixtures, and cooler running engines. Because they don’t erode with use as conventional spark plugs do, the corona igniters will supposedly have longer service lives. No time frame for commercialization of the ACIS system was announced.

 

 

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23 Comments on “First Lasers, Now Corona Ignition Proposed...”


  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    The news release doesn’t fully describe the process – but my guess is that each cylinder gets its own pulsed Tesla coil, which if I remember correctly, can produce a couple of 100K of voltage for whatever time duration is necessary

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    So it works on the same principle as a plasma cutter?

  • avatar
    toplessFC3Sman

    Well, there isn’t a whole lot left to be gained by getting a “more complete burn”, since combustion efficiencies of most gasoline engines are 97 – 99%, meaning that basically all the fuel burns, and all thats left is a few partially completed products of combustion like CO, maybe some CH4 or other short hydrocarbons etc. Considering this, you could maybe get a reliable 0.5% or 1% out of this alone.

    The real benefit would be if it allowed the reliable packaging of greater “spark” energies. This would allow manufacturers to ignite leaner mixtures, helping solve one of the problems with stratified gasoline engines. The usual methods of boosting a spark plugs output tend to wear the spark plugs much more quickly than normal, so this may make sense in that respect, depending on cost. There’s still particulate & NOx emissions, as well as controls problems to overcome for lean or stratified gasoline work, but one problem down is better than none.

    If this presented a much larger ignition source, the burn should be quicker since the flame wouldn’t have to travel as far out to the bore walls, but this would really be more of a tertiary effect on efficiency, vs. a well-placed traditional SI combustion event.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      ICEs are actually still and will remain so unless we can capture the 80% energy loss (the current standard is we only convert 20% of our gas / diesel into kinetic energy which moves the vehicle) which is simply the lost heat (byproduct) used in combustion. As of now we simply cooling systems to dissipate and do not recover any of its energy except in the winter to heat the interior of the car. When we get some heat energy capture system (thermal efficiency) adopted the ICE will remain highly inefficient (but still a better medium for the alternatives we have today). There are ideas such as BMWs Turbosteamer which adds a steam engine connected to the exhaust that supplies 10% increase in power to the crankshaft (providing an estimated 15% increase in gas mileage).

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        You can’t capture heat 80% wasted heat loss. For a longer-winded discussion about Carnot heat engines and thermodynamic efficiency, the most we could expect is about 35% efficiency.

        I like the turbo steamer idea, but they key is in how efficient the system would be in extracting heat from the exhaust… there’s the cat downstream and that depends on a certain amount of heat to operate efficiently… Peter, meet Paul.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        You can’t capture heat 80% wasted heat loss.

        I disagree. There are solid-state thermal to electric devices under development that will be able to utilize the waste heat. Here’s a paper on the subject. I think that much of the heat can be converted to electric and fed to an electric motor inline with the ICE essentially converting the heat to mechanical energy. I don’t know what percentage of that 80% will be recoverable, but some of it certainly can be captured and used.

      • 0 avatar
        toplessFC3Sman

        All i’m talking about is the conversion of fuel to it’s byproducts; just the fuel conversion efficiency. Going from it’s byproducts (CO2, H2O, and a LOT of heat => pressure) to rotational motion there are plenty of other losses, but this invention doesn’t claim to address them (nor could it).

        Overall brake thermal efficiency for modern passenger car gasoline engines peaks at about 35% (although its a lot lower than that at part load, where most engines spend most of their time), passenger car turbodiesels at 42%. The rest essentially gets split between friction, the coolant and the exhaust. There’s no way to capture all of this, and while rankine cycles & BMW’s turbo-steamer idea could theoretically help, at the moment their implementation is still very much in the R&D phase, with the need for a lot of cooling & the aero drag that accompanies that, as well as the added weight, cost & packaging, being the major hurdles.

        Plus, as stuntmonkey points out, you need a fair amount of exhaust heat to keep the catalyst lit (not to mention all the fuel wasted on cold-starts and for diesel LNT & DOC regenerations to meet the emissions regulations), so you can’t pull too much heat out of the exhaust. The coolant is really at too low of a temperature to do much with, since any devices that we currently have that can produce significant power from a 60 – 70*C thermal gradient are either huge, heavy, or incredibly heavy/inefficient, or all of them.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      What it may do is cause the fuel in the cylinder to burn faster, thus allowing more of the energy to be converted to work.

  • avatar
    serothis

    I’m kind of pulling this out of my rear end but I’m curious how this compares to a laser ignition system. I imagine that laser would afford better/more precise timing than plasma because laser are light and can react at the speed of well…light.

    also I want my wankel engine with friggin’ laser beams.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    The plasma system looks more intriguing than the lasers, looks like a broader area of the combustion chamber ignites at once… basically we’re looking at a controlled homogenous charge combustion scenario. The thing with the lasers is that it looks like they are trying to induce multiple points of ignition… the plasma system looks like a broad swath of area.

    All told, though… if these systems make it to market, we’re talking about nudging gasoline closer to the efficiency of diesel… they won’t exceed it.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    I wonder if they will make this device so that it can replace a standard spark plug with out any modifications at all?

  • avatar
    Herm

    HELLO!, what about the radiation hazard?.. has everyone forgotten about the “Plasma Fireballs Sparkplugs” from the 90s?.. dont bother Googling it since the DOE sanitized the internets.. these things were so bad that mechanics had to line their underwear with aluminum foil.

  • avatar
    niky

    Tinfoil underwear? Did those same mechanics wear tinfoil helmets when watching TV or standing under fluorescent (plasma) lights?

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      well duh!, you dont want to get brain cancer either.. just look at the x-men movies, why do you think Magneto uses that helmet?.. keep an open mind.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      There’s a difference between an open mind and an uncritical one.

      There have been many “special” spark plugs from small manufacturers through the years, and a lot of them have claimed to use plasma for this or that effect, but none of them have been proven to do anything in real world testing.

      I’ve even bought a few of them, before concluding, like many gearheads with a wrench, an engine-programming computer and a nearby dyno, that your basic, run-of-the-mill standard plug is more than enough.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    The Peltier Junction chip, convert heat into electricity, some of them suppose to crank out a sizable current, unlike Solar panel u need acreage of panel. They’re not all that expensive either.
    http://unitednuclear.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=27_37&products_id=455

    I disagree. There are solid-state thermal to electric devices under development that will be able to utilize the waste heat. Here’s a paper on the subject. I think that much of the heat can be converted to electric and fed to an electric motor inline with the ICE essentially converting the heat to mechanical energy. I don’t know what percentage of that 80% will be recoverable, but some of it certainly can be captured and used.

  • avatar
    eldard

    And as usual, it would take the Japs to commercialize this. Like what they did with the hard drive and the plasma display.

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