Ford’s new plasma tech can bring engines back from the dead — and cut CO2 emissions

When we think about saving eco-friendly engines, the words hybrid, electric and hydrogen immediately spring to mind. But Ford has another way to help the environment.

Ford’s new plasma tech can bring engines back from the dead — and cut CO2 emissions

Rather than simply binning or melting down old, worn-out conventional engines, Ford engineers have developed and patented a cheap, quick process to refinish them, making them fit for another lifetime of use. The result? The metal and energy required to build another engine is saved. Better yet, the process produces less than half the CO2 of making a new engine.

“We have taken a process that was originally developed to enhance performance models such as the all-new Ford Mustang Shelby GT 350R and used it to remanufacture engines that might otherwise be scrapped,” said Juergen Wesemann, manager at Vehicle Technologies and Materials, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.

How does it work?

Ford’s plasma-transferred wire arc (PTWA) process may sound complicated, but the idea behind it is simple. Worn-out engines can feature scratched, uneven surfaces that make them unusable, so engineers initially coat them with a ultra-thin layer of new metal.

After essentially filling in all the corroded areas, the engine’s surfaces are polished back to their usual circumference and size. The engine’s surface is then a smooth, seamless mixture of both new and old metal – and the engine is ready to use again.

“Traditional engine remanufacturing techniques can be prohibitively expensive and energy-intensive, requiring iron-cast parts and intricate machining processes,” said Mark Silk, supervisor of powertrain products at Ford. “The plasma-transferred wire arc coating technology removes the need for additional heavy parts and the processed engine block has a new life as the base of a replacement engine.”

The future

While it might not be the most glamorous process, it’s an example of the ways in which car manufacturers can make a small but meaningful difference when it comes to the current generation of cars.

Of course, it’d be better if all cars were hybrids – or even electric vehicles – but this method will certainly help reduce our emissions until we reach that point.

Read next: Electric cars of the future will be charged by our roads

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