Laser Ignition Leading to Reduced Emissions?

Laser Ignition - CLEO 2011

In brief: Lasers aren't just for science fiction and James Bond movies anymore - now they may be an option for more efficiently firing your engine.

The word

Laser Ignition, submitted to CLEO 2011

At this year's Conference on Lasers and Electroc Optics (CLEO) coming in May, researchers from Japan will be describing a multi-beam laser system that would replace the spark plug in a cylinder head. This aftermarket addition could, according to them, be produced in large quantities to compete with the spark plug market and improve efficiency through better combustion.

The work is being partially supported by Toyota through their DENSO Corporation as well as the Japan Science and Technical Agency (JST).

The lasers work by firing two beams into two separate locations in the combustion chamber, thus quickening combustion and making it more uniform. This makes the ignition much more efficient. The mechanism itself is made up of two yttrium-aluminum-gallium (YAG) segments, one doped with neodymium and the other with chromium, and bonded together to create a 9mmx11mm long "spark plug."

The beams generated operate at about 100Hz and the team believes that commercial engines will require about 60Hz in order to fire the leanest of fuels. The beams are not single beams, but pulses at 800-picoseconds each.

The team has not tested in a mass-produced engine yet, but plans to do so in the near future.

And so ...

Very exciting technology. Lasers under the hood!

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