Lasers 'could replace spark plugs'

Spark plugs in car engines could soon make way for more efficient laser-based ignition systems.

Scientists have demonstrated the potential of a laser beam as an alternative to the tiny electrical device that is currently used to start combustion engines.

Lasers, which produce more heat faster, could provide better ignition than spark plugs, in addition to improving the engine's fuel efficiency and lowering emissions, experts say.

Spark plugs have evolved little since their invention more than a century and a half ago, and only ignite the fuel-air mixture near the spark gap.

The laser system, develop by a team of experts from Romania and Japan, is capable of sending out two to three beams that reach different depths within the cylinder, enabling ignition at multiple points.

Researcher Takunori Taira, from the National Institutes of Natural Sciences in Okazaki, Japan, said the development has been made possible due to the advancement in lasers.

"In the past, lasers that could meet those requirements were limited to basic research because they were big, inefficient, and unstable," he said.

The researchers said they are exploring commercial opportunities for the technology and are in talks with car parts firm Denso.

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