Using electrical fields to boost auto efficiency | KEYE Austin - Green Right Now Austin News, Weather, Traffic KEYE-TV Austin - HOME
Oct 092008

By John DeFore

Image courtesy of Temple University

While automakers and garage-based inventors work on replacing the car as we know it, a scientist at Temple University claims to have found a way of squeezing more out of the ones we already own with a process tongue-twistingly dubbed electrorheology.

A team led by professor Rongjia Tao implemented the principle for a small device that creates a strong electric field to make auto fuel less viscous; that allows much smaller fuel droplets to be injected into the engine for combustion. As the authors explain in the introduction to their paper: “Because combustion starts at the interface between fuel and air and most harmful emissions are coming from incomplete burning, reducing the size of fuel droplets would increase the total surface area to start burning, leading to a cleaner and more efficient engine.”

While other strategies exist for reducing the size of fuel droplets, the researchers say they don’t yet exist in forms usable in unmodified vehicles. Tao’s team’s innovation, on the other hand, “could be easily applied on current engines to improve their efficiency” — by up to an impressive 20% in a diesel-based experiment, according to this summary in Science Daily:

“Six months of road testing in a diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz automobile showed that the device increased highway fuel [economy] from 32 miles per gallon to 38 mpg, a 20 percent boost, and a 12-15 percent gain in city driving.”

While the device is still being modified and tested, Temple has already licensed the technology to California-based Save The World Air, Inc., which plans to use it in diesel trucks.

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