Beetle inspires new diesel technology

The Swedish Energy Agency has awarded SEK 6.8 million to a radical new principle for fuel injection in diesel engines. The technology is being developed at Lund University in collaboration with Swedish Biomimetics 3000. The technology resembles the way the Bombardier beetle sprays an irritating liquid mist on ants, frogs, spiders and other intruders.

“What has been discovered is that the beetle generates the mist using heat, rather than pressure, as in today’s engines. This means cheaper injectors that require less energy and the possibility of reduced emissions”, says Per Tunestål, Professor of Combustion Engines at Lund University.

The original idea to copy the beetle’s spray method came from the University of Leeds in the UK. Swedish Biomimetics 3000 has developed and commercialised the technology for a number of applications, including an equivalent system for petrol engines, for which there is now a functioning prototype.

Per Tunestål was one of those who took the initiative to develop this technology for diesel injection, which is slightly more difficult than for a petrol engine. Diesel fuel has a higher boiling point and the fuel is injected into the cylinder where the pressure is higher.

The research project will run for four years. By the final stage, the researchers expect to have a rough prototype ready. In a further year or so, it is hoped that the technology can be in use in diesel engines, and Per Tunestål estimates it will produce fuel savings of a couple of percentage points. Which will add up to a lot, if you consider the number of diesel engines in the world.

The aviation industry has also take inspiration from the physiognomy of the special Bombardier beetle. The hot steam jet is started by a millimetre long jet engine in the beetle’s abdomen.

Text: Kristina Lindgärde

Published: 2013

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