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Old 13th July 2009, 23:51   #1
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Default Lasers Might Replace Spark Plugs In Cars!

I don't know if this is old news. Found it in Times of India, yesterday, titled "Cars may soon be started by lasers". Couldn't find any thread about this in forums.


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Forget spark plugs. You would soon be able to start your car by lasers, thanks to scientists who have developed what they claim is an ignition system which uses focused beams of laser light to ignite the fuel.

A joint team from Liverpool University and car giant Ford has come up with the technology that is more reliable and efficient than current spark plug technology and would enable vehicles to start more easily in cold and damp conditions.

We are running engines everyday in our lab with this system now and our ultimate objective is have it inside cars driven by consumers. Lasers can be focused and split into multiple beams to give multiple ignition points, which means it can give a far better chance of ignition.

"This can really improve the performance of the engine when it is cold, as this is the time when around 80 per cent of the exhaust emissions are produced and the engine is at is least efficient.

"The laser also produces more stable combustion so you need to put less fuel into the cylinder," team leader Dr Tom Shenton was quoted by the leading British newspaper 'The Daily Telegraph' as saying.

In current engines, spark plugs are positioned at the top or bottom of a cylinder and they can often fail to ignite fuel effectively if the petrol is not in the right position in the cylinder.
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Old 14th July 2009, 02:13   #2
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Yup, read about it a few hours ago. The newspost said that these lasers can ignite the mixture at the perfect place in a cylinder for better combustion. Don't how how much of that is true and how much is PR though.
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Old 15th July 2009, 14:39   #3
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its quite possible, but they'll either have to use really strong optics [lenses inside the combustion chamber itself] or infrared lasers to penetrate the metal cylinder without harming it.
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Old 15th July 2009, 18:57   #4
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It's interesting and its possible, but a few problems that are'nt really explained to well in the article -
1) Lasers need a gas mixture plus an assist gas(Oxgen, Nitrogen or Compressed Air). So will cars have to start carrying these? Will there be stations where users could fill up and if its being done during a service, would that affect the price and intervals of the service.
2)The lasers wil need options, without doubt and these optics can withstand high tempretures and heat, but what about the soot and other craps that these optics will get covered with? Obvisouly this only applies if the optics are close to or in the combustion chamber.

It probably will improve combustion, but at what cost? I presume like Urea, it will only exist in commercial vehicles and more expensive cars.

Last edited by Rehaan : 16th July 2009 at 13:37. Reason: Post edited. Original article w/ source has already been posted in first post of the merged thread.
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Old 17th July 2009, 00:06   #5
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Apart from gas Lasers, there are solid state lasers too. One can buy a laser-based "pointer" in 150 Rs (with case and spare batteries too). For ignition, it is possibly this kind that is being contemplated. To withstand the high temperature, the lens system should be quartz IMHO. These are guesses really.
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Old 17th July 2009, 00:29   #6
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Googled after my previous post. University of Colorado has patented a laser based spark plug (See New Scientist, March 28, 2006). It uses Neodymium-YAG laser source and is "piped" into the cylinder by special optical fibre.
This was 2 years before the current news about the joint development between Liverpool University (UK) and Ford Motor.
Fellow bhpians will certainly be able to contribute more specific technical info and about specific advantages.
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