Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 19

LIFESAVING PLASMA

Ignition breakthrough promises super-low emissions and fuel efficiency for
internal combustion engines
BY JACK KEEBLER

W

e get frequent reminders that
we are on the "bleeding edge"
of autodom's electrification.
And the reality is that because of huge
EV production investments and battery
costs, as well as range and charging
issues, the internal combustion engine
will likely remain with us for some time.
A recent breakthrough in plasma-ignition tech is helping to ensure that probability. It promises better fuel efficiency
and much lower emissions. And that will
add regulatory compliance life to gasoline
and natural gas engines.
No, plasma here has nothing to do with
blood; it's an electrically conductive ionized gas. By converting an engine's intake
charge into an ionized gas, the spark
from the plug is significantly more likely
to propagate a flame front through the
entire air-fuel mix, resulting in a cleaner,
more complete burn and combustion.
"Obviously, the promise of electric
vehicles is very real, and it's a long-term
solution," observes Dan Singleton, CEO
of Transient Plasma Systems in Torrance,
Calif. "But we see mainstream market
penetration for EVs as a decade or more
away. So in our vision, internal combustion engine vehicles need to become
cleaner and more efficient now. Our
technology uses 10-nanosecond pulsed
power to produce transient plasma. And
we've demonstrated that we can get
a more than 20 percent improvement
in fuel economy and 50 percent lower
[oxides of nitrogen] emissions compared
to a conventional ignition system."
By electronically exciting the combustion air-fuel charge to a transient
low-temperature plasma state using very
short, lower-energy electrical pulses, the

technology enables even highly diluted
charges - using exhaust gas recirculation or air - to burn quite completely.
Generally, engines run close to what is
called an "ideal" stoichiometric air-to-fuel
ratio of 14.7:1, which provides good burn
stability. Higher ratio mixtures do not fire
up completely, which can result in combustion misfires and climbing pollutant
levels. But Singleton says that
with the plasma technology,
air-fuel mixtures of 25:1
and higher fire up with
stability and operate
efficiently.
Plasma - ignition
tech is not new;
it has been investigated in government and automaker
labs for decades. But
recent very high-speed,
high-voltage, solid-state
switching breakthroughs, used
by Transient Plasma Systems,
have brought previously high costs down
and reduced ignition-system packaging
requirements.
Singleton acknowledges that steps
were also taken to eliminate unique,
high-cost and complicated spark plugs,
or "special igniters," cloak the effects
of electromagnetic interference and

reduce any required engine modifications to fit his system to existing engines.
Essentially, it is a smaller, more reliable,
lower-cost plug-and-play version of earlier units.
Singleton adds that quarterly, Transient
Plasma Systems tracks chip breakthroughs "as they come out." He says,
"Our system gives the automakers a
new [affordable] tool that enables
highly dilute combustion
strategies that lower
emissions and unlock
efficient combustion
modes. And power
consumption is in
the same range as
a standard [multiple-spark discharge]
system. We think
we need to bridge
that gap on the way to
other [lower-emissions]
technologies."
Singleton says the company has
demonstrated its technology on "very
small" engines and "very large" engines
and with Asian, European and American
carmakers. Transient Plasma Systems is
also active with the Sandia and Argonne
national labs, has U.S. Department of
Energy funding and cooperates on published papers with lab associates. n

april 2020 * shift

19



Shift Magazine - April 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Shift Magazine - April 2020

Shift Magazine - April 2020
From the Editor
Did You Know?
Into the Unknown
Q &A
The Coasts With the Most
And the Honorees Are ...
Trategic Startups
Last Mile
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Intro
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Shift Magazine - April 2020
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Cover2
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 3
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - From the Editor
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Did You Know?
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Into the Unknown
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 7
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Q &A
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 9
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - The Coasts With the Most
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 11
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - And the Honorees Are ...
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 13
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 14
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 15
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 16
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 17
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 18
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 19
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 20
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Trategic Startups
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Last Mile
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Cover3
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Cover4
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