How clean is your car engine? You might not expect this type of question to come up in an optics paper very often, but it turns that one way to check is to take a high-resolution video of the internal combustion process. However, obtaining a quality movie of combustion dynamics is easier said than done. To view these high-temperature events at extremely short time scales, the camera must be carefully designed to image with as much light as possible. However, injected fuel vapors within the engine lead to very large index of refraction variations, which also make it tough to derive quantitative information from each recorded image. In this work, Westlye and colleagues set out to address this imaging challenge. They present a new optical setup that can maintain maximum light throughput without losing too much in terms of image quality. They demonstrate that their carefully designed optical setup can accurately determine the liquid length and soot formation in a fuel spray, which hopefully will lead to the cleaner and more efficient cars that we all hope to have in the future.
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