Materials - Better distributed energy


A quest for superior spark plugs for natural gas engines that help power commercial buildings, schools, restaurants and hotels has ignited an effort between Champion and researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The goal is to develop spark plugs with life expectancies of one year (8,000 hours) instead of today's standard of between 1,000 and 4,000 hours. The big payback is reduced maintenance and improved reliability. Spark plug erosion represents perhaps the biggest challenge, and the situation becomes even more critical as manufacturers of natural gas reciprocating engines consider leaner burning engines and continue to increase cylinder pressures and compression ratios as they strive for higher efficiency and lower emissions. ORNL researchers Tom King, Hua-Tay Lin, Roger Richards and Mike Brady use a number of instruments, including a specially constructed spectroscopic chamber, to analyze erosion and spectral emissions of new and used spark plugs. Through the partnership with Federal Mogul (Champion), researchers hope to develop a prototype spark plug that incorporates new alloys for improved erosion resistance and enhanced spark plug lifetimes. The research is funded by DOE's Office of Distributed Energy.

 -  Ron Walli,  865.576.0226,  December 01, 2004

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