TPS’s plasma ignition system can increase engine efficiency by 20%

Sunday, June 12th, 2022

Transient Plasma Systems replaces the conventional spark plugs in a vehicle’s engine with an ignition module that uses very short duration (nanosecond) pulses of plasma to ignite the fuel-air mixture within the cylinder:

TPS commissioned a testing company called FEV to evaluate the pulsed plasma system after fitting it to a highly efficient 2.5 L Toyota Camry engine that runs the Atkinson cycle, with a thermal efficiency of around 40 percent.

“Across the drive cycle, that is a really good engine. And what we were able to do was drop [the plasma ignition system] on, put a slightly different spark plug in the hole but still a spark plug and then our power supply, and they were able to get up to 6 percent increase in fuel economy. This, with the stock engine pulled out of a crashed car, with just being able to open up that EGR valve a bit more and adjust the timing, and then we were able to get that benefit,” he said.

“Essentially, if you were to open the EGR valve more with the stock ignition system, you would start to lose combustion efficiency and so you no longer get the overall benefit. Whereas with us they were able to open up that valve more and preserve the combustion efficiency and, therefore, that translates into better fuel economy because you have a lower temperature of combustion. You’re reducing heat losses,” Singleton told Ars.

The final stage of testing for TPS’s system is to prove its durability, but Singleton expects this won’t be a problem. “The technology uses all solid-state, high-voltage switches — these are switches that are used in applications where they’re run for millions and millions of shots. If you just did an analysis of the parts, you would say no problem, right? The testing that still needs to be done is, once you’ve put it into a package where it’s going to go to altitude and extreme heat, extreme cold, you just have to do some design validation and tweaking,” he said.


  1. Wang Wei Lin says:

    The article doesn’t mention emissions specifically, but improving efficiency would likely improve emissions. It’s possible to boost the efficiency of a standard gasoline engine by adjusting fuel mixture and timing while using standard spark plugs. The article is a puff piece.

  2. Bob Sykes says:

    I should have expected that reducing the combustion temperature would have reduced the efficiency, according to Carnot’s Second Law formula.

  3. TRX says:

    Plasma ignition systems go back 30 years. They came and they went because they offered no advantage ove the then-current production ignition systems.

    They’re describing the ignition equivalent of the “100 MPG carburetor.” It’s not even theoretically possible.

    > combustion temperaure

    OEMS fight to keep peak temperature down, because air is 80% nitrogen, and at high temperatures it forms compounds generically classified as “NOx”, which is a regulated pollutant, and very hard to deal with. Once closed-loop feedback became the norm for fuel systems, mixture-related emissions were largely eliminated, and any leftovers were dealt with by the catalytic convertor. Almost all of the emission-control devices and software in a modern automobile are concerned with minimizing NOx.

    This is also where the “hydrogen fuel” nutters lose contact with reality and start babbling about “zero emissions.” Sure, if they were burning oxygen and hydrogen. But they’re burning air along with hydrogen, and hydrogen burns *hot*, aggravating the emission problem.

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