DETROIT (April 29, 2011) — Could a laser beam replace a spark plug? A system that uses multibeam lasers has been developed by engineers in Japan and Romania and could replace spark plugs long used to ignite the fuel/air mixture in internal combustion engines.
The system has the potential to reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency, developers said.
The team of engineers is scheduled to present its findings May 1 at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics in Baltimore.
The group is in discussions with Nippon Soken, a Denso Group company, to develop commercial uses, according to Bridgette LaRose Gollinger, a spokeswoman for Denso International America Inc.
Developers said the system offers more complete combustion because multiple laser beams can be aimed at different depths of an engine's combustion chamber. The end result is better fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.
A spark plug only ignites the fuel mixture near the spark gap, reducing combustion efficiency.
The British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), which first reported the development, said that unlike a spark plug, the laser device does not deteriorate over time and does not need to be replaced at prescribed intervals. Today's spark plugs can last up to 100,000 miles.
The advent of smaller lasers has made the concept of laser-based combustion possible, the BBC report said.
Additionally, the lasers are made of ceramic powder to better handle the heat within an internal combustion engine.
This report appeared in Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.