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Spark plugs giving way to lasers

Ford and the University of Liverpool are developing a laser ignition system for cars.

Spark plugs, patented by Robert Bosch and Nikola Tesla in 1898, are about to be replaced by lasers. Sonett72

Say goodbye to spark plugs, a 19th century technology about to be supplanted by lasers. The U.K. paper The Telegraph reports that Ford is working with the University of Liverpool to develop a laser ignition system for internal-combustion engines. That's right: engines with frickin' lasers strapped to their heads.

The laser beam is delivered by a thin, fiber-optic cable to a focusing lens that would take up much less space than a spark plug, allowing engineers greater flexibility in designing valves and cylinders. The laser beam can be split to ignite the fuel mixture from multiple points deep in the cylinder, making for a more efficient burn than a spark plug can achieve, reducing emissions and getting better fuel economy. Another advantage to the laser system is that part of the beam can be reflected to a receiver and used to gather data on the fuel mixture and the quality of the burn.

And this isn't merely a research project, as there are working prototypes of the system at the University of Liverpool laboratory. Ford, which has eagerly been adopting fuel efficiency technology such as electric-power steering and six-speed transmissions, reportedly will use the laser ignition system in some of its cars over the next couple of years, then spread the technology to the full range.

(Source: The Telegraph)