Purdue University researchers have begun developing a new pre-chamber technology for automobiles.
This is the same ignition technology used in jets and it could eventually replace conventional spark plugs in cars.
A pre-chamber is a tiny chamber filled with a mixture of fuel and air. Combustion takes place when this fuel-air mixture ignites.
Tiny holes in the bottom of the chamber release the hot combustion products in the form of powerful jets, which penetrate into the main chamber and cause ignition.
According to the researchers, when compared with traditional spark ignition, this method provides a large surface for multiple-site ignition and fast flame propagation and enhances the overall combustion efficiency.
The Purdue team is working on both passive and active pre-chambers.
For the former, the main-chamber mixture is pushed into the pre-chamber by compression stroke through the tiny holes.
For the latter, additional fueling is supplied to the pre-chamber to facilitate leaner operation of the main combustion chamber.
According to Li Qiao, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics, the technology her team is working with has already been used in large bore natural gas engines and in some F1 racing cars.
However this will be the first time its being introduced into combustion engines.
“The auto industry is feeling the pressure to optimize these engines because of the competition from electric vehicles,” says Qiao. “Several automotive engine companies have started exploring pre-chamber technology for passage cars.”
Qiao is currently collaborating with industrial experts on design and optimization of passive and active pre-chambers for gasoline engines.
She and her team have also performed tests at Purdue’s Herrick Laboratories and Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, the largest academic propulsion lab in the world.
Qiao’s work aligns with Purdue’s Giant Leaps celebration of the university’s global advancements in sustainability and space as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary.
These are but two of the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.
Image and content: Purdue University