New Sensor Technology for Reducing Emissions from AutomobilesEPA Grant Number: R828209
Title: New Sensor Technology for Reducing Emissions from Automobiles
Investigators: Taylor, Henry F.
Institution: Texas A & M University
EPA Project Officer: Karn, Barbara
Project Period: May 1, 2000 through April 30, 2003
Project Amount: $220,000
RFA: Technology for a Sustainable Environment (1999) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development
The goal of this project is to carry out experimental research which promotes the utilization of a new fiber optic sensor technology for reducing harmful emissions from automobile engines. The sensors will measure in-cylinder gas pressure, the key input for engine control systems designed to minimize emissions under all operating conditions. The transducer element is the fiber Fabry-Perot interferometer (FFPI), which was developed at Texas A&M and has been commercialized by a small company, Fiber Dynamics, beginning in 1994. The company produces in-cylinder pressure sensors for large industrial engines, such as those used in natural gas transmission.
At present, the sensor commercialization effort at Fiber Dynamics is complemented by ongoing fiber optics research at Texas A&M - research exemplified by the proposed NSF/EPA project. The FFPI engine sensor has proven accurate and reliable during hundreds of thousands of hours of operation in the harsh engine environment, but a great deal of research and development is still needed before products meeting the demanding requirements of the automotive industry can evolve. The major technological barriers, which apply to both the transducers and the monitoring optoelectronic system, are perceived to be (1) cost, (2) size, and (3) speed of operation. The proposed project will explore means for overcoming each of these barriers, as a first step in convincing the automobile manufacturers and their suppliers that fiber optics is a strong candidate as the "missing link" in achieving more effective engine control.
Specific tasks will address the following component developments: (1) Low-cost, miniaturized pressure transducers. - Under the proposed project, methods for making spark-plug-embedded FFPI pressure sensors will be explored. Representing a radical departure from prior fiber optic transducer designs, this type of sensor has a chance to meet a cost goal of less than $5 per cylinder while requiring very little space in the engine compartment; (2) Low-cost light source. - The feasibility of using vertical cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) in the optoelectronic system for monitoring the sensors will be explored. This type of laser, recently introduced as a light source for fiber optic communication networks, could be the key to achieving an inexpensive optoelectronic system for acquiring the sensor data; (3) High speed electronics. - Novel signal processor designs utilizing state-of-the-art microcontroller and digital signal processing chips will be explored as a means of increasing the sampling rate from the present 4 kHz to the 50 kHz - 100 kHz regime, as required for automotive application.
Industrial partners in the proposed project, Visteon Automotive Systems (an enterprise of Ford Motor Company), of Dearborn, MI, and Fiber Dynamics of Bryan, TX, will provide technical advice and assistance as well as the use of test facilities for evaluating the sensors produced at Texas A&M.