Fire in the Hole!!!

That’s a warning in mining that an explosion is about to occur.  It came to mind again this week while listening to the work that the Department of Energy sponsors to improve the combustion process in the engine.  At the same time, my son reminded me of a short saying attributed to Sam Parker in his “212 Book.” “At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees, it boils. And with boiling water, comes steam. And with steam, you can power a train. Just one extra degree makes all the difference.”  

How does all this relate?  A lot of the efforts over the next 10 years to improve fuel economy are all about controlling the fire in the combustion chamber of the cylinders of the engine.  Getting the fire to burn cleanly, completely, without harmful emissions and produce motion of the piston, rather than wasted heat, is paramount to meeting the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations of the government for both passenger cars and heavy trucks.  Some of the same tools used to study the combustion process are also being used to better understand and improve the after treatment system and the regeneration process.

Where as diesel engines were already very efficient, something like 43%, we are seeing demonstrations of over 50% and paths to get to 55%.  The good news is that this will turn into lower fuel consumption for the fleets.  The same technology that started the industrial revolution, the same technology that creates electricity in a nuclear power station or a coal fired power station, is in the vehicle in your driveway.  

On the human side the "one extra degree" story reminded me of Thomas Edison, a giant in the development of technology, who said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” So many people fail when a little persistence, just one more step, would have them succeed in their endeavor.  Do you have a “fire in your pit” that will keep you motivated to persist one more step and succeed?  

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