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BorgWarner Acquires ECCOS Radio Frequency Electrostatic Ignition Technology for Leaner Burning Engines

Comparing standard and ECCOS combustion. Source: Etatech. Click to enlarge.

BorgWarner Inc. has purchased the ECCOS (Electrically Controlled Combustion Optimization System) radio frequency electrostatic ignition technology targeted at lean-burn engines from Florida-based Etatech, Inc. Terms were not disclosed.

High-performance, lean-burn engines can significantly improve fuel economy and reduce emissions compared with conventional combustion technologies. Independent lab tests have shown peak energy efficiency improved up to 40%, NOx emissions decreased 80% and CO2 emissions fell 50%. However, current spark plug technology is unable to optimize the lean burning engines.

Being able to extend the Lean/Dilute Misfire Limit can offer significant advantages in fuel consumption and emissions. Source: Etatech. Click to enlarge.

Ignition systems for spark ignited, high brake mean effective pressure (BMEP), low emissions engines have historically been a problem from a performance and reliability standpoint. Low emissions, high BMEP engines usually have high compression ratios and operate with high turbocharger boost levels, both of which help to produce high cylinder pressures at the point of ignition. This high cylinder pressure and a lean/dilute mixture require higher voltage from the ignition system to initiate combustion.

The high voltage demand required to initiate ionization at the spark plug gap puts additional stress on the secondary system, which delivers the coil voltage to the spark plug. High voltages are difficult to contain in the secondary system, and often, the secondary dielectric strength is not sufficient to deliver the energy to the spark plug gap. This problem requires that small electrode spark gaps be used to reduce the voltage demand.

Unfortunately, small spark gaps often do not deliver sufficient ignition energy to a lean air-fuel mix in the cylinder to consistently initiate a flame kernel, the beginning of combustion. Thus, the lean/dilute mixture ignitability limit is insufficient to meet emissions and efficiency goals.

—Radio Frequency Electrostatic Ignition System Feasibility Demonstration

Unlike traditional engine ignition systems that rely on heat to initiate combustion, the ECCOS generates a high voltage, low current, and radio frequency electrostatic field (corona) inside the combustion chamber to efficiently ionize the air-fuel mixture and initiate multiple flame fronts. This greatly improves combustion efficiency and speed, and consistently ignites the leanest air-fuel mixtures.

The electric field can be directed to where it is optimum for combustion; electrode, insulator and combustion chamber design all influence the geometry of the corona discharge.

With little or no heat-related electrode erosion, maintenance is virtually eliminated. To further improve engine performance, the system electronically controls various characteristics of the combustion cycle, further reducing emissions, improving efficiency and increasing horsepower. A controlled combustion rate can significantly improve engine performance by reducing emissions, improving efficiency and increasing horsepower by extending knock-limited BMEP.

ECCOS electrical schematic. Click to enlarge.

The ECCOS ignitor is physically similar to a conventional ignition system’s coil, extension and spark plug, except it is one assembly, not separate components.

BorgWarner expects to commercialize the technology, which will replace conventional spark plugs, for powertrain applications across various markets and regions in the next few years.

Our ignition experts at BERU Systems believe this will be the ignition technology of the future. The significant improvements in fuel economy and emissions provided by this technology may revolutionize the industry. Our focus on reducing emissions, increasing fuel economy and improving engine performance makes this technology a perfect fit for BorgWarner.

—Tim Manganello, BorgWarner Chairman and CEO




When reading the words "lean-burn" the first thing I want to know is the air/fuel ratio, this post doesn't say. Oh sure there's a graph that suggests an 'ideal operating range' up to 40 to 1 and the links say they've "Demonstrated stable engine operation at 90% of the lean limit." [36 to 1?] but gasoline direct injection engines already get ultralean 65-100 to 1. Even a simple hydrogen boost system should get 30 to 1.

Research is all well and good but when what they hope to get is less than what we're already getting with another tech...



Where do you see production gasoline powered vehicles running around with a 65:1 to 100:1 a/f ratio?

Last I heard BMW uses around a 20:1 to 22:1 and Mitsubishi's 40:1 GDI engine is only in a few select markets where the gasoline is "pure" enough to not foul the special NOx catalyst used. Toyota certainly isn't going any leaner than either of the two aformentioned companies. I have not heard of Honda doing gasoline direct injection.


In real terms, does this mean that an ICE could go from about 20% to 28% efficiency?

Still nothing to write home about.

I'll take ultra clean 96% efficiency e-motors instead.


Wow a First law efficiency compared to a Second law efficiency. Genius.

Does anyone on here have a clue or at least a BS in engineering?

FYI ICE engines are more like 40-50% thermal efficient compared to an "ultra clean" coal power plant(where your electricty came from)which is ~30%.

Lean flamability limits of turbulent premixed flames is a PHI of 0.4, for gasoline is ~ 36.75:1.


Obviously no one has a clue...a basic 1st year thermo book would show that 40-50% efficiency is pretty much the ideal perfect maximum level for an Otto engine (or maybe slightly more than is possible with an Otto cycle?)


I guess they teach arrogance in engineering school as well. Look down on the little people, it makes you feel superior.


They claim that efficiency improved by 40%, but CO2 emissions fell by 50%. CO2 emissions are dictacted by efficiency, and if that improves by a factor of 1.4, then CO2 emissions should be reduced by a factor of 1/1.4, or ~0.7, meaning a decrease in CO2 emissions of 30%, not 50%. Was it a typo, did they mean CO emissions? What am I missing?

Andrey Levin


Fuel efficiency measured in L per 100km (or gram per KWh) does go step-in-step with reduction of CO2 emissions. Measured inverted in miles per gallon, or km per liter, produces this discrepancy.


"peak energy efficiency improved up to 40%"

Not without massively increasing the compression ratio.


Get real.
Since when do press releases have to conform to the laws of physics.

Besides, these are targeted at investors (capitalists) so it is the intent, not the absolute accuracy of the claims, that counts.


"Ideal perfect maximum"? Way higher.

This sounds quite similar to the microwave ignition currently developed by MWI (www.mwi-gmbh.com). There was an article about it in the March issue of MTZ.


"Not without massively increasing the compression ratio."

They can increase effective CR by advancing timing closer to TDC

"ideal perfect maximum of 40-50%"

Correct range, I believe the exact value for the Otto cycle is 42%. This is considered "ideal perfect maximum" under the stipulation of reversibility.

I have a BMW with DI (335i N54 powered). Data logging indicates the LEANEST the engine EVER GETS is 19:1. When numbers of 50:1 are bantied about that refers to cylinder aggregate AF. The actual charge AF is still ~18:1. To achieve such a high AF advanced swirl control techniques are used to contain the fuel charge and direct it under the spark plug.


BTW standard atmospheric pressure is ~14.6psi so divide any boost by that to see your increase in effective CR. So if you are running 14.6psi of boost that means cylinder pressure is 2atms before compression even begins. If the CR is 10:1, effective CR at TDC will be 20:1.



The theoretical maximum for an otto-cycle engine with a compression ratio of 10:1 is round about 60%.


I don't think their claim violate the law of physics, 40% is what an ideal Otto can get (60% is the absolute value without heat loss that are unavoidable in practice). The improvement comes from the very lean mixture that allows higher CR but also lower temperature thus lower heat loss as well as less Nox formation.

No I don't see any overstated claim here. The tricky part is too control a plasma discharge in extreme environemnt such as combustion chamber, but that's quit an exciting approach indeed.



there is an additionnal benefit is that even if the increase in efficiency is only 40% you can get co2 emission down 50%. their systeme can ignite a ultra lean mixture so you don't need a throtle and you get rid of th epumping loss mean that in city driving you improve your mileage a lot


I always liked the radial gap spark plug, because it could arc around 360 degrees. The hybrids should have the 200-300 VDC required for the front end of this. It would be nice to combine this, with FFV E85 and hybrid.

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