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Ford Developing Laser Ignition System

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 45 comments

Ford and the University of Liverpool are owrking on a new laser ignition system for automobiles.

Ford is teaming up with the University of Liverpool to throw out the old-school spark plugs and design a laser ignition system for internal-combustion engines. According to The Telegraph, a fiber-optic cable--powered by the car's battery--shoots the laser beam to a focusing lens that would consume a much smaller space than current spark plugs. The lenses focus the beams into an intense pinprick of light, and when the fuel is injected into the engine, the laser is fired and produces enough heat to ignite the fuel.

The University researchers claim that the new technology--using lasers to ignite the fuel--is more reliable and efficient than current spark plug technology.  Although the laser will need to fire more than 50 times per second to produce 3000 RPM, it will require less power than current spark plugs. The lasers can also reflect back from inside the cylinders to relay information based on fuel type used and the level of ignition, enabling cars to readjust the quantities of air and fuel for optimum performance.

"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," said Dr. Tom Shenton, leader of the project. "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."

Ford said that it plans to implement the new technology into its top of the range vehicles within the next few years, and then make the laser ignition system available for its remaining models sometime thereafter.

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  • 16 Hide
    Uncle Meat , July 16, 2009 10:32 PM
    Quote:
    Although the laser will need to fire more than 50 times per second to produce 3000 RPM


    On a four-stroke engine, the spark plug fires once every two rotations, not once every rotation.
Other Comments
  • -9 Hide
    mavroxur , July 16, 2009 10:18 PM
    This is why US auto makers continue to fail. Instead of looking toward the future and spending money on R&D of alternative energy sources, we're reinventing ways to burn dinosaur juice. Let's take that money and...I dont know....invest it in battery or fuel cell technology research. It's like a company inventing a new and improved way to deliver a better picture on CRT monitors or something....
  • 16 Hide
    Uncle Meat , July 16, 2009 10:32 PM
    Quote:
    Although the laser will need to fire more than 50 times per second to produce 3000 RPM


    On a four-stroke engine, the spark plug fires once every two rotations, not once every rotation.
  • -8 Hide
    P_haze420 , July 16, 2009 10:36 PM
    no no no. You guys don't understand. Gov shut us, the people up. They want to keep oil prices high and low mileage cars so they can get more money. There's so many good inventions that we don't even know and it would been better for us.

    Look at this, 100mpg 80s Mustang. He said that all it needs a one part to the car and it will bring 110 percent in mileage.

    See it for yourself.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsHoZPLPoq4
  • 0 Hide
    cruiseoveride , July 16, 2009 10:42 PM
    But honestly, how much power is used by the coil and amplifier that would result in better fuel economy if the lasers were used instead
  • -1 Hide
    alextheblue , July 16, 2009 10:47 PM
    Interesting, but I think HCCI has more promise. GM and others have working HCCI prototypes, and the gains in efficiency are far more promising. Better yet, couple a small HCCI motor to the Voltec powertrain.
  • 9 Hide
    idahoflyer , July 16, 2009 11:21 PM
    A multi-cylinder engine can have multiple ignition events per rotation depending on cylinder and crank orientation. If the laser is used to fire multiple cylinders (waste spark), the laser may need to fire once per rotation. This is not a concern. Solid state (semiconductor) lasers routinely are modulated at megahertz and even gigahertz frequencies. A few kilohertz is no problem.

    I believe Volvo might have installed 3-point seatbelts before Mercedes. Volvo had them in 1959. I don't disagree that Mercedes has long been a driver of automotive innovation however.
  • -2 Hide
    Ciuy , July 16, 2009 11:23 PM
    wow, but kinda late, FUEL IS RUNNING OUT !!!
  • 2 Hide
    idahoflyer , July 16, 2009 11:49 PM
    The articles I've read about the Saab gt750 don't make it clear that they had 3-point belts. Have you found reference beyond, "they were first to have seat belts standard?"
  • 5 Hide
    the_one111 , July 17, 2009 12:31 AM
    "owrking"?
  • 4 Hide
    okibrian , July 17, 2009 12:51 AM
    thejerkwe were both wrong, sorry... it was Saab in 1958. my b.and the rest of you people who are dinging my posts because you don't like reading the truth are pig fuckers.


    I may not agree with your view on this topic, but I do like the pig fucker remark. I get a few dings from those people too.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , July 17, 2009 12:56 AM
    ATTN: Dipsh.its at the Ford Motor Company...

    The gasoline(or petrol, whatever your preference), will run out soon, companies with non-douchebag execs are working on electric cars(Ford is quite broke, r&d money is slim). Say what you will about the green-ness of the electricity that powers them, but gasolines days are definitely numbered. Ford refuses to make a vehicle for American markets that gets more than 30mpg, they'll create a big-a.ss hybrid SUV that gets 30mpg, but they are quite opposed to Americans getting a small, fuel-efficient vehicle(although Europeans can get a Fiesta). Own stock in oil companies much?
  • 2 Hide
    FilthPig2004 , July 17, 2009 1:17 AM
    Uncle MeatOn a four-stroke engine, the spark plug fires once every two rotations, not once every rotation.


    Yeah, but there's just one laser, and the beam is delivered by fiber optics to each cylinder. The laser is replacing the coil, not the spark plugs.
  • -1 Hide
    Uncle Meat , July 17, 2009 2:54 AM
    FilthPig2004Yeah, but there's just one laser, and the beam is delivered by fiber optics to each cylinder. The laser is replacing the coil, not the spark plugs.


    Unless it's a 2 cylinder engine, the math is still wrong.
  • 2 Hide
    seatrotter , July 17, 2009 3:02 AM
    It would be interesting to know how they plan on actually putting the laser on the cylinders. Dust/dirt/grease/whatever will eventually accumulate.

    Anyone knows how long before a typical spark plug is rendered inefficient/useless due to said problem? I wonder how long before the laser encounters the same problem/situation.

    You could say that the use of laser would potentially eliminate the problem since it'll hopefully completely burn the fuel. But I'm guessing there are other sources of the problem.
  • 7 Hide
    lifelesspoet , July 17, 2009 4:00 AM
    Is it so much to ask to have cars with friggin laser beams?
  • 2 Hide
    doomtomb , July 17, 2009 6:03 AM
    Quote:
    Ford and the University of Liverpool are owrking

    ? Editor please
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