Passive acoustic monitoring and diagnosis of combustion chamber characteristics enabling real time optimization of engine performance.


The research team of William Norris, John A. Kleppe, and Dana R. McPherson of University of Nevada, Reno, has developed a method for determining the internal performance characteristics of an engine during operation. Acoustic-vibrational frequencies emanating from a running engine are detected and compared to frequencies representing known operating characteristics of a correct running engine. Data is then used for adjustments or optimization of engine performance.

Technology Summary

This technology would serve to access internal performance of an engine by determining the nature of or data concerning vibrational or frequencies emanating from the engine. This data would then be used to assess efficiency, internal performance, and generate operational adjustments yielding optimal performance. Such mentioned method or apparatus could be applied to a wide array of mechanical systems including, but not limited to, engines, boilers, and furnaces. With the ever increasing number of mechanical systems affecting our everyday lives instantaneous feedback on the performance of our mechanical systems characteristics is an invaluable asset. Some example characteristics would include fuel-to-air ratio in a combustor, steam-to-air ratio in a boiler, temperature in an internal combustion engine, failing engine components and dangerous operational conditions.

Potential Benefits

Performance - The acoustic sensor is noncontact and external to the combustion chamber therefore isn't subject to the environment that can damage to the lifespan and operation of sensors (eg. Thermocouples). Also, unlike optical sensors, acoustic sensors don't require field-of-view and are not subject to lens fouling.

Effective - Acoustic sensors can measure spatial characteristics rather than just surface characteristics. An example is the temperature distribution within and engine as opposed to its surface temperature.

Efficient - The instantaneous feedback of the internal workings without the need to dismantle engine to investigate potential problems.

This technology would be beneficial to any engine to help prevent problems, maintain performance, and diagnosis of issues. This technology would increase reliability, ease of usage, and prevent potentially dangerous scenarios.

Potential Applications

  • Real time performance optimization of combustion engines

  • Internal operating characteristics of Ramjet/Scramjet engines

  • 3D acoustic pyrometry of combustors, turbines and furnaces

  • Leak detection in boilers


UNR is seeking expressions of interest from parties interested in collaborative research to further develop, evaluate, or commercialize this technology.

IP Status

UNR ID#: UNR04-030
Apparatus and Methods for Acoustically Determining Internal Characteristics of an Engine and the Like
US Patent #: 7,761,216

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Shannon Sheehan
Manager, Technology Commercialization
University of Nevada, Reno
William Norris
John Kleppe
Dana Mcpherson