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Wednesday, Dec 25, 2002

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New fuel-efficient engine from Audi?

Anna Peter

MUMBAI, Dec. 24

HAS Audi, the German carmaker, discovered the key to manufacturing fossil-fuel-efficient engines of tomorrow? Apparently, yes.

Audi's laser-treated engines are expected to reduce wear-and-tear by 23-89 per cent, while oil consumption will decrease by about 30 per cent. According to a source, the first machine for Audi has already been produced by ELOTHERM, GmbH, Germany, the company that specialises in heat induction processes, and will be tested under production conditions in February 2003 and supplied to Audi in the spring of 2003.

Audi developed the technology with ELOTHERM, and Professor H.W. Bergmann of the University of Bayreuth, and has also filed a patent. According to someone closely associated with the project: "This process improves not only the mechanical quality of the engines, which results in higher lifetime, but also helps build engines that consume less fuel and oil, which means less pollution — absolutely necessary for the future."

He added: "The development cost of the process is estimated at 15 million euros."

A paper on the technology says that the working of a combustion engine and oil consumption depend on the tribological (the science of the mechanisms of friction, lubrication, and wear of interacting surfaces that are in relative motion) properties of the cylinder surface, piston and piston rings system.

Both greatly influence the exhaust gas and its composition, and consequently, environmental pollution. Conventional honing processes create structures of crossing grooves on the cylinder surface, limiting the reduction of wear and oil consumption.

"If a cylinder surface is pre-treated by honing in three stages or superfinish boring prior to exposure with UV-photons, two effects are obtained: First, the uncovering of graphite lamellae at the surface due to the vaporisation of material during ablation of the grey cast iron, and, second, the formation of a molten surface layer. The uncovered graphite acts as a `micropressure chamber system'."

According to the paper, the physical properties of the UV irradiation process result in the incorporation of 16-18 per cent nitrogen on the surface, producing a layer with a non-metallic character. The open graphite lamellae and nitrogen-hardened layer improve the tribological properties of the cylinder surface, piston and piston rings system. Superfinish boring, as a surface conditioning treatment prior to UV photon exposure, offers noticeable improvements in the tribological performance.

Audi's Indian representatives said that "it was still in the project stage" and declined to comment further.

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