The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Wednesday awarded a $400,000 contract to TIAX, a technology development firm, to develop sensor technology that overcomes one of the major technical challenges in the new advanced high-efficiency automotive engines — controlling the start of combustion (SOC).
Although this new generation of engines, known as "Low-Temperature Combustion" or “Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition” (HCCI) engines, have been designed to provide high efficiency and low emissions, critical technical problems, such as detecting SOC, have prevented them from being marketed to consumers.
HCCI engines have no direct mechanism to precisely initiate SOC, as with spark ignition engines or Diesel engines.
TIAX will be the prime contractor and will work with Wayne State University, one of the leader's in engine diagnostics and control, on advancing sensor technology to combat the SOC problem.
In earlier work for the DOE, TIAX designed a non-intrusive microphone sensor mounted on an engine block to determine SOC on a cycle-by-cycle, similar to how a stethoscope senses heart beats.
In a statement, Kenan Sahin, CEO and founder of TIAX, said that the new sensor technology would allow the HCCI engines to save 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. petroleum now being used for transportation, while still meeting or exceeding 2010 emissions targets.
The sensor technology could also be adapted to almost any type of engine on the market.