Laser ignition is viewed as a potential future technology for advanced high-efficiency low-emission natural gas engines. However, in order to make laser ignition systems more practical, thereby enabling them to transition from the laboratory to industrial settings, there is a need to develop fiber optically delivered ignition systems. Recent work at Colorado State University has shown the possibility of using coated hollow fibers for spark delivery and has demonstrated laser ignition and operation of a single engine cylinder using hollow fiber delivery. In order to practically operate a multiple cylinder engine, we envisage a simple and low-cost system based upon a single laser source being delivered (“multiplexed”) through multiple fibers to multiple engine cylinders. In this paper, we report on the design, development, and initial bench-top testing of a multiplexer. Bench-top testing showed that the multiplexer can be positioned with the required accuracy and precision for launching into fiber optics, and can be switched at the relatively high switching rates needed to operate modern natural gas engines. Another test employed the multiplexer to alternately launch laser pulses into a pair of hollow fibers in a way that allows spark creation downstream of the fibers.

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