This GM V-8 engine could soon be powered by lasers. Japanese researchers have created a laser system small enough to fit into an engine cylinder head. This means your next car could be fired up by lasers doing the job of spark plugs, which ignite compressed fuel to run your engine. The researchers say that this new system allows a car’s engine to burn cleaner, more efficiently, and to produce fewer nitrous oxide emissions, which contribute to smog.
Previously, laser systems powerful enough to do this job weren’t small enough to go where spark plugs live, but these new lasers are not only small enough, they can be produced at an affordable cost. Takunori Taira of Japan’s National Institutes of Natural Sciences, one of the researchers on the project, says the new laser system is made of ceramics and can be mass produced inexpensively. The researchers’ findings will be presented in May at the Conference on Laser and Electro Optics in Baltimore.