Old-Tech Spark Plugs On The Way Out

Yet another piece of the automobile as we've known it seems will soon
become ancient history -- good ol' spark plugs.
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Last May, at the international Conference on Lasers and Electro-
Optics, a joint Japanese/Bulgarian team of researchers introduced
ceramic based lasers that are compact, durable and powerful enough to
be used to ignite a fuel/air mixture in a combustion engine. At the
time, the researchers announced that they were working with spark plug
maker Denso on commercializing the idea. That announcement was
followed up by word that Mazda=92s next generation =9316X=94 rotary engine
will exploit the compact size of those laser igniters. Now Michigan
auto supplier Federal Mogul has released news about a US patent on
their Advanced Corona Ignition System, or ACIS. Instead of a spark (or
laser) the ACIS uses a high-intensity burst of plasma to ignite the
fuel.
The corona can be controlled more than an electrical spark, allowing
it to spread across the combustion chamber, resulting in a more
complete burn. Federal Mogul says that using ACIS will improve fuel
mileage by as much as 10% over conventional spark plug ignition, in
part due to greater timing precision. That precision is said to be
synergistic with direct injection. ACIS will also, F-M claims, allow
leaner fuel/air mixtures, and cooler running engines. Because they
don=92t erode with use as conventional spark plugs do, the corona
igniters will supposedly have longer service lives. No time frame for
commercialization of the ACIS system was announced.
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