Transient plasma generated by nanoseconds pulsed power is attractive as a technology for the ignition in a variety of engines because when compared to traditional thermal ignition (spark ignition system) it results in reductions in ignition delay and has been shown to ignite leaner mixtures, which allows for lower specific fuel consumption, high-repetition rates, high-altitude operation, and reduced NOx emissions. 

Transient plasma has been applied effectively to the ignition of internal combustion engines as well as pulse detonation engines.  Non-equilibrium transient plasma discharges are produced by applying high-voltage nanosecond pulses that generate streamers, which create radicals and other electronically excited species over a volume.  Using pulsed power technology developed by the founders of Transient Plasma Systems, an increase of up to 20% in engine efficiency has been demonstrated in an internal combustion engine.

Pulse characteristics typical for this application are 1-100 ns with an amplitude between 10-100 kV, designed for a high-impedance (200 Ω load).


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  6. C. Cathey, J. Cain, H. Wang, M. A. Gundersen, M. Ryan, and C. Carter, “OH Production by Transient Plasma and Mechanism of Flame Ignition and Propagation in Quiescent Methane-Air Mixtures, Combustion and Flame, Volume 154, Issue 4, Pages 715-727 (2008).

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  8. T. Shiraishe, T. Urushihara and M. Gundersen, “A Trial of Ignition Innovation of gasoline engine by nanosecond pulsed low temperature plasma ignition,” in Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, 42 (2009).