Supercritical Fuel Combustion Could Drastically Improve Efficiency

Transonic Combustion's fuel injection system aims to blow hybrid technologies out of the water. They have demonstrated the ability to get as much as 64 miles-per-gallon on the highway using their TSCi technology, compared to a Toyota Prius's 48 MPG. The technology is likely still a few years away from any degree of mass adoption, but it and similar technologies have the potential to join the alternative fuels movement in ramping up auto efficiency to extreme levels.

The fuel injection system thrives by heating gasoline before injecting it into the combustion chamber; this supercritical state allows it to combust without the need for a spark. While traditional combustion engines end up using only about 15 percent of the total energy contained in fuel, this type of approach could help move toward 30 and even 50 percent. This could drastically reduce the amount of automotive fuel used in the world, significant because, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, fully 23 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions came from the transport sector in 2004.

Transonic hopes to begin installing their systems in 2014. The company's VP of business development, Mike Rocke, told Technology Review that at 50 mph cruising speed, a test car was able to achieve 98 mpg.

Elsewhere, other improvements in the standard internal combustion engine are joining in the race for more efficient fuel injection. Last year, Nissan unveiled a dual injector system (left) that by reducing fuel droplet diameter can up fuel efficiency by about four percent.

Biofuels, electric cars and maybe even hydrogen might be on the way, but improving on what we've got won't hurt either.

Photos via Transonic Combustion, Nissan.

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