|The basic Plasma-Assisted Combustion process concept. Click to enlarge.|
Los Alamos National Laboratory has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with PerriQuest Defense Research Enterprises, LLC to advance Plasma-Assisted Combustion for commercial refinement and implementation.
PerriQuest, based in Meriden, CT, Los Alamos, and Idaho National Laboratory are collaborating on the research and development of Plasma-Assisted Combustion, under a licensing agreement with Los Alamos, for turbine and internal combustion engine applications. The technology enables the development of cleaner-burning or more fuel-efficient engines.
Under Plasma-Assisted Combustion, electrodes attached at the spray nozzle of a fuel injector apply enough electrical voltage to the atomized fuel stream prior to combustion, thereby generating a plasma in the fuel.
This effect essentially breaks down the long chains of hydrocarbons in the fuel into smaller parts, allowing the fuel to be burned more completely, resulting in more miles per gallon, or reducing emissions.
You put into an engine the equivalent of a process plant or fuel refinery. The plasma unit basically acts like a cracker in a refinery, cutting the long chains of hydrocarbons into bite-size parts—the smaller the parts the better the burn—taking cheap fuels and making them combust like expensive ones.—Don Coates, Los Alamos
The research was really driven by market needs. In 2004, regulations were announced about air pollutants by all vehicles. In the future, air pollutants by vehicles, on- and off-road, are supposed to be more highly regulated. We knew that this was going to create a great opportunity to develop a technology that would supply the demand for cleaner burning vehicles. So, we decided to see if we could do something about it.
The technology does produce cleaner emissions, and can lead to better fuel efficiency, but probably not at the same time. Maybe if Mother Nature was super-kind you might get both.—Louis Rosocha, Los Alamos, Applied Plasma Technologies team leader
PerriQuest founder and CEO Nicholas V. Perricone said that his company, which routinely works with the US Government on defense technologies, is dedicated to turning the plasma combustion technology into a commercial product that will improve turbine and internal combustion engines.
- “Topical Review: Plasma assisted ignition and combustion”; S M Starikovskaia; J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. (2006) 39 R265-R299 doi:10.1088/0022-3727/39/16/R01