Car engines could soon be fired by lasers instead of spark plugs, researchers say.
A team at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics will report on 1 May that they have designed lasers that could ignite the fuel/air mixture in combustion engines.
The approach would increase efficiency of engines, and reduce their pollution, by igniting more of the mixture.
The team is in discussions with a spark plug manufacturer.
The idea of replacing spark plugs - a technology that has changed little since their invention 150 years ago - with lasers is not a new one.
Spark plugs only ignite the fuel mixture near the spark gap, reducing the combustion efficiency, and the metal that makes them up is slowly eroded as they age.
But only with the advent of smaller lasers has the idea of laser-based combustion become a practical one.