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Vendor Newsmaker Q&A Lou Camilli

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - 06:00
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Described as an innovative entrepreneur and creative thinker with extensive experience in developing business opportunities and commercial products from raw technology, Lou Camilli came of age as a utility man – for real. Throughout the early 1970s he played several infield positions for the Cleveland Indians, memorably slapping his debut Major League hit into centerfield past the great Cy Young award-winning Vida Blue of the Oakland Athletics.

During Camilli’s tenure with the Tribe, unfortunately, the team never rose above fifth place. Yet his four-year career in the Big Show did prompt a classic quip: “They ought to change our name to the Cleveland Light Company,” he observed at the time. “We don’t have anything but utility men.”

Leaving life on the diamond behind and armed with a mathematics degree from Texas A&M University, Camilli scored in the aftermarket by inventing the Pulstar spark plug and establishing Enerpulse Inc. He recently answered a series of questions posed by Aftermarket Business World:

Q: How did you invent your n-PAC technology? How did you get the idea, and how long did it take to perfect the concept?

A: Enerpulse has worked independently and in cooperation with the Sandia National Laboratories to apply pulsed power in an internal combustion engine ignition to improve performance. Enerpulse’s Nano-Plasma Assisted Combustion (n-PAC) technology finds its roots in the science of pulsed power. Our patented internal capacitor stores and compresses energy during the ignition cycle. This energy is then discharged in a high power pulse just prior to the spark event; conditioning the fuel charge with energy-rich plasma. This conditioned fuel mixture is highly excited, ensuring instant ignition and an accelerated burn.

The idea of putting a capacitor into the high voltage circuit of an ignition system to deliver a high power spark is not new. Early patents from the 1920s attest to this. But none of these patents ever developed into a commercial product.

For me, it’s been a 25-year overnight success!

In the late 1980s I was looking for commercial opportunities with technologies being developed at Sandia National Laboratories. It was here that I was introduced to the Ultra High-Power Electromagnetics Department (Pulse Power Group) and became an immediate fan.

With the help of Sandia’s Pulse Power Group I was able to design and patent a product that would survive in the underhood environment of a vehicle. Sandia became my first customer, purchasing my capacitor for use in their experimental nuclear fusion reactor known as the Z-Machine in 1992.

I continued to refine the technology and our original product became commercially available in 2001, under the name DirectHits, which was an add-on to conventional spark plugs. By 2006 I was able to incorporate the capacitor circuit into the body of a conventional spark plug, giving birth to today’s Pulstar spark plugs.

Since 2006 we have focused our efforts on increasing durability and performance. During that time we have succeeded in increasing the size of Pulstar’s plasma field by engineering higher capacitance, which delivers a higher nano-pulse discharge. In 2014, we launched the Pulstar with PlasmaCore spark plug. This version has both the increased capacitance with intelligent energy management and is much more durable over any of our previous design generations.

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