Lasers, baby!

The internal combustion engine depends on many things: liquid fuel, pistons, exhaust systems, and of course sparkplugs. Invented in the 19th century, sparkplugs have been the what makes petrol engines go bang since Mr. Benz decided to sack his horse from its carriage-pulling duties. Now, Ford and the University of Liverpool have teamed up to replace the said plugs with laser beams

The laser beam is delivered by a thin, fiber-optic cable to a focusing lens that would take up much less space than a spark plug, allowing engineers greater flexibility in designing valves and cylinders. The laser beam can be split to ignite the fuel mixture from multiple points deep in the cylinder, making for a more efficient burn than a spark plug can achieve, reducing emissions and getting better fuel economy. Another advantage to the laser system is that part of the beam can be reflected to a receiver and used to gather data on the fuel mixture and the quality of the burn.

And this isn’t merely a research project, as there are working prototypes of the system at the University of Liverpool laboratory. Ford, which has eagerly been adopting fuel efficiency technology such as electric-power steering and six-speed transmissions, reportedly will use the laser ignition system in some of its cars over the next couple of years, then spread the technology to the full range.

(via Cnet)

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