Laser spark plugs – the next big thing

Laser spark plugs – the next big thing

Who isn’t a fan of the internal combustion engine? It’s a genius piece of engineering and is run by advanced electro-mechanical systems that have been perfected over a century of development. That’s true but it isn’t stopping recent reports that laser spark plugs are the next big thing in automotive engineering. For some experts the laser spark plug is expected to be the last big technological development for the gasoline engine before the electric revolution comes in force.

In Japan, researchers at the National Institute of Natural Sciences have recently created an extremely compact laser that’s robust enough to withstand automotive use. Using strong ceramics and two different laser elements, the lasers are capable of being pulsed quicker and more accurately than current spark plug technology can. Another benefit of lasers in the combustion chamber is the ability to ignite the air/fuel mixture with more power than a spark plug can achieve.

Before you go getting ideas of fitting lasers to sharks or shooting mates in the eye with laser beams from under the bonnet of your car – this tech is still far from ready. What’s more, the modern engine management systems and direct fuel injection are capable of greater efficiency and more complete combustion than ever before. So it’s a tough act to beat and while spark plugs might seem old school, they’ll remain far cheaper than fitting lasers for ignition.

In terms of development, it is very early days with the laser plugs still needing to be successfully fitted to an actual engine. But the Japanese scientists are preparing to show their work to automakers next month so we may hear more of this laser talk in the near future.

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