Academic improves F1 telemetry

A method of collecting data for engine performance analysis described as ‘revolutionary’ by industry experts has secured a Leeds academic £250,000 venture capital to develop its commercial potential.

Research by Dr Greg Horler, from the University of Leeds’ Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering has led to the production of a wireless telemetry system based on miniaturised electronics to collect engine performance data.

The system reportedly allows data sampling to be managed remotely using two-way command and control, which will speed up the development cycle of more efficient engines with higher power and enable the automotive industry to meet EC regulations concerning emissions more rapidly.

The investment, announced by the White Rose Technology Seedcorn Fund (WRTSF), has enabled the creation of a new spin-out company, Instrumentel Ltd, to develop and market the system. Instrumentel is already working on piston telemetry systems for Formula 1 racing cars, which will then be modified for the mass automotive market. To produce more efficient engines with higher power and reduced emissions, parameters of the piston (such as temperature, forces and pressure) must be monitored, sampled and accurately analysed.

Manufacturers of engine components, lubricants and fuels also require this data to assess the performance of their products under varying conditions of engine load, and to refine the software models used in engine development.

Currently, data for analysis is not collected directly from the piston, but via a physical link to the piston crank. This method involves extensive engine modification to install and operate.

Wireless piston telemetry systems do exist, but these are said to be inflexible because changing the type of sample required, or replacing the power supply requires both the engine and piston to be completely dismantled. Instrumentel’s system is fitted inside the piston with minimum disruption. It allows the user to control sampling rates, order and accuracy, and synchronise data sampling to specific triggering events such as piston position in the engine cycle.

A further innovation is the use of an on-board miniature power generator that uses the motion of the piston itself to recharge the power supply.

‘None of the existing piston telemetry systems fully meet user requirements with regard to speed, size, temperature capability and robustness,’ said Instumentel Director, Dr Greg Horler. ‘The WRTSF investment will allow us to improve the current prototype systems and accelerate the development of our Formula 1 version for mass market applications.’