Photo: Porsche
Photo: Porsche

This Year’s
Winning Autos

There are a few truly remarkable automotive-tech breakthroughs that have not yet found their way into an automobile, actual or concept. One of the most stunning of these is the microwave ignition from MWI AG. If that company is successful, the spectacular, factory-built Porsche 911 GT3s that run in Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup racing will adopt this Radarange of a system to stay on the track longer between pit stops while producing fewer emissions.

It’s the brainchild of renowned automotive engineer Armin Gallatz, CEO of MWI (Micro Wave Ignition), in Empfingen, Germany. Backers include Wendelin Wiedeking, the former CEO of Porsche.

The tech aims to beat spark plugs, a surprisingly inefficient way to burn liquid fuel in cylinders. Reason: About 80 percent of the combustion is completed before useful mechanical work can be done. During that critical lag, a transition between “laminar” and “turbulent” stages of combustion, cylinders heat up and emit more pollutants.

To eliminate that lag by triggering an all-at-once burn—effectively one big turbulent stage—engineers have tried to light the fire with other matches—a laser, an ionized gas, even an electric field (corona ignition). But pulsed microwaves may well be the best trick because they ignite even the tiniest clusters of fuel throughout the cylinder, not just in a favored spot.

MWI claims that in the optimal case it can save 30 percent of the fuel, with smaller gains already realized in testing on one- and two-cylinder engines. That means a similar cut in carbon dioxide emissions, with cooler cylinder temperatures suggesting measurable cuts in nitrogen oxide emissions. Critically, microwave ignition can work with existing engine designs, and with any fuel: gasoline, diesel, or biofuels. As the company moves into the test-vehicle phase, it’s reportedly found another partner in Fach Auto Tech, a prime team in Porsche Supercup racing, the international series that uses identically prepared 911 GT3’s.

“It’s absolutely great,” says Alex Fach, the team principal, of the microwave-ignition tech. “We saw it on a two-cylinder engine in testing, where it produced a 26 percent reduction in fuel consumption at the same level of power, and a 100 °C reduction in exhaust temperatures.”

Fach will collaborate with MWI to develop the technology, which—like any radically new tech—faces enormous hurdles to be accepted in racing, let alone by major automakers. But with engineers working to squeeze the tiniest incremental gains from internal combustion engines, microwave ignition could be a big breakthrough that helps extend the life of the IC engine, both on roads and on the track. For an English-language version of this video, click here.

The Conversation (0)

Video Friday: DARPA Subterranean Challenge Final

1 min read
DARPA

This week we have a special DARPA SubT edition of Video Friday, both because the SubT Final is happening this week and is amazing, and also because (if I'm being honest) the SubT Final is happening this week and is amazing and I've spent all week covering it mostly in a cave with zero access to Internet. Win-win, right? So today, videos to watch are DARPA's recaps of the preliminary competition days, plus (depending on when you're tuning in) a livestream of the prize round highlights, the awards ceremony, and the SubT Summit with roundtable discussions featuring both the Virtual and Systems track teams.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Making 3D-Printed Objects Feel

3D-printing technique lets objects sense forces applied onto them for new interactive applications

2 min read

Researchers from MIT have developed a method to integrate sensing capabilities into 3D printable structures comprised of repetitive cells, which enables designers to rapidly prototype interactive input devices.

MIT

Some varieties of 3D-printed objects can now “feel," using a new technique that builds sensors directly into their materials. This research could lead to novel interactive devices such as intelligent furniture, a new study finds.

The new technique 3D-prints objects made from metamaterials—substances made of grids of repeating cells. When force is applied to a flexible metamaterial, some of their cells may stretch or compress. Electrodes incorporated within these structures can detect the magnitude and direction of these changes in shape, as well as rotation and acceleration.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

NYU Researchers Pave the Way for Future Shared Mobility

The C2SMART Center at NYU is tackling the most pressing issues in urban transportation

5 min read

NYU researchers led by civil and urban engineering professor Joseph Chow are working in the area of micromobility, a category of transit that includes electric bicycles and scooters, which has grown in popularity in cities around the world.

Shutterstock

This article is sponsored by NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

The collection of technologies and markets that comprise so-called "shared mobility" now constitutes a $60 billion market, according to some estimates. This enormous growth has at least in part been driven by the aim of reducing vehicle carbon emissions to address climate change concerns.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Trending Stories

The most-read stories on IEEE Spectrum right now