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Technology

MIT's Plasma Bus

The world's first fully functional plasma vehicle takes a test run.

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Researchers at the ArvinMeritor Corporation and MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center have unveiled a diesel-powered bus that emits 90 percent fewer nitrogen oxides than the conventional version. Electric current from the vehicle’s generator creates plasma—hot, electrically charged atomic fragments—that transforms diesel into a hydrogen-rich gas that then scours pollutants from the vehicle’s exhaust-treatment system. This is the first time such an apparatus has been used in a fully functional vehicle. Daniel Cohn, leader of the MIT project, says his team’s “plasmatron” fuel reformer could clean up the diesel engines in commercial trucks and buses, which are a leading source of transportation pollution in the United States. The plasmatron could also give cars and light trucks a boost, cutting emissions and raising the efficiency of gasoline engines by up to 30 percent for as little as $1,000 per vehicle.

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