Monday, July 13, 2009

Team Brawn, Rossby waves and laser sparkplugs

Despite a dominant start to the season, Team Brawn have struggled somewhat in the last couple of Grands Prix, and, looking at the bigger picture, this actually reveals an inability to cope with Rossby waves.

Rossby waves are kinks or meanders in a jet stream, and if such kinks in the Northern hemisphere's polar jet stream stretch Southward in the Summer, they expose Northern Europe to cold polar air. Such has indeed been the case for the last two Grands Prix, and Team Brawn have struggled to get their tyres up to operating temperature under the cooler conditions.

It is therefore the Rossby waves towards which Rubens Barrichello should be directing his ire, not his own team's strategists.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Telegraph reports that laser ignition will soon be replacing sparkplugs in road cars. Project leader Dr Tom Shenton, of Liverpool University, reports that:

"Lasers can be focused and split into multiple beams to give multiple ignition points, which means it can give a far better chance of ignition.

"This can really improve the performance of the engine when it is cold, as this is the time when around 80 per cent of the exhaust emissions are produced and the engine is at is least efficient.

"The laser also produces more stable combustion so you need to put less fuel into the cylinder."

This is a fabulous idea, and one wonders why Formula 1 no longer has the wherewithal to make this type of breakthrough.

Moreover, given the imminent introduction of laser ignition into motor cars, one might go one step further and replace the cylinders with hohlraums. One could then replace hydrocarbon fuel with pellets of frozen deuterium-tritium, and use the lasers to trigger inertial confinement fusion within the engine. Needless to say, the pistons would have to be made out of a mixture of carbon, beryllium and tungsten to withstand the temperatures produced by a nuclear fusion plasma...


Sean said...

Remind me not to bring my car around for you to tinker with.

Russell Senior said...

The reason F1 is not using this, and my doubt for this bieng used in road cars, is durability. The laser beam is transmitted to each cylinder via fiber optics, which is made of glass. Glass tends to break when under heavy vibrations, like you would experience in an engine.

I would bet my engineering degree that F1 is investigating or has investigated this type of ignition system.

Gordon McCabe said...

Would it even be legal under the current regulations Russell? Engine regulations are extremely restrictive these days. I was implicitly assuming that this line of development had already been anticipated, and duly precluded.