Laser Ignition and Diagnostic Systems Delivered by Flexible Optical Fibers


Collaboration and Funding Opportunities Welcome


Azer Yalin
Sachin Joshi

At A Glance

​Researchers at Colorado State University have developed and patented laser-based ignition systems based on state-of-the-art optical fibers and sophisticated new delivery strategies that provide both engine sparking and diagnostics capabilities.  Generally, it is challenging to use optical fibers to deliver laser pulses that allow the exit (output) pulse to form a spark in the gas-phase.  The required breakdown intensity is typically between 100-300 GW/cm2.   Light intensities of this magnitude require an exit pulse with a sufficient combination of optical power and beam quality.  Through the use of advanced materials and sophisticated delivery strategies, the systems developed here have demonstrated sparking in air with full 360 degree loop in fiber – outperforming all traditional sparking systems.


Reference No.: 09-068


​Due to the large cylinder pressure and mixture density desired in modern engines, traditional spark ignition systems must operate at high voltage levels.  As a result, dielectric breakdown (unwanted sparking) and electrode erosion frequently plague modern gas engines and are a limiting factor in their operational envelope. 

Optical sparks suffer from neither of these shortcomings and thus may have significant advantages for improved engine operation.  In certain cases, optical sparks can also afford performance benefits associated with extension of maintenance intervals as well as changes in the lean limit, coefficient of variation of pressure, pollutant emissions and other parameters. Laser ignition has been shown to be a particularly effective way of igniting lean mixtures.  Although it is relatively simple to create a spark by using “open path” laser delivery, this system is not practical for most industrial applications.  Thus, there is a need for the development of an alternative optical delivery system.

  • Laser can be located away from engine unit.
  • One laser can serve multiple cylinders, lowering costs and maintenance
  • Fiber optic system allows diagnostic light to return for analysis
  • Decreases maintenance interval and enables predictive maintenance
  • Do not suffer from dielectric breakdown and electrode erosion symptomatic of high voltages
  • Heavy-duty natural gas engines
  • Other internal combustion engines
  • Engine diagnostics
  • Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS)
  • Potential for turbines and aircraft

Last updated: June 2020

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