What is Fuel Atomization?

It takes a lot to make an engine work, but none of it would be possible without the atomization of automotive liquid fuels. In this process, fuel is forced through a small jet opening under extremely high pressure to break it into a fine misted spray. From here, the mist is mixed with air (emulsified) and then vaporized into a rarefied form appropriate for use by an internal combustion engine.

All of this takes place in an engine's carburetor.

From here, it moves through the fuel injector, where it combusts in the engine causing the pistons to fire and propel the vehicle forward. This process, known as fuel combustion, is what literally makes the mechanical world go round. 

The Importance of Carburetors

Without proper and efficient atomization, liquid fuel can be heavily wasted in the process of combustion or even worse gum up the engine to where it won't work. That's why it's important to check your vehicle's carburetor regularly if you feel fuel performance is beginning to slip. 

The type of carburetor and its configuration in the engine can greatly impact atomization performance of your engine. The injector placement is meant to ease this process of breaking up the liquid into a finer mist. Typically, they are pointed at the stem of the injector valve, adding a spray effect to the high-pressure release of gas toward the rest of the engine.

In a similar manner, the accelerator pump discharges a steady stream of liquid fuel against the walls, forming yet another high-pressure mist that is "stirred" by air flowing through the carburetor. This further speeds up the movement and processing time of the atomization, creating finely broken down fuel to be vaporized into its combustible rarefied form.

Improving Atomization

Although there is very little you can personally do about your vehicle's atomization rate, a few studies have been conducted on usage and methodologies to improve your fuel performance via this process. Contrary to the popular belief that turning off your car air conditioner improves atomization performance, the only way to improve your engine's performance is to have a mechanic install modifications that help expedite the process.

One of these is to create a rough surface for the fuel injector to spray against. As opposed to the smooth surface of the interior of most carburetors, small abrasions to the surface could cause more surface tension against the sprayed fuel, causing it to more quickly break apart. Another way is to increase fuel pressure by increasing the power of the compressor, but that has not yet been tested fully and may result in engine fires. Switching to biodiesel is also known to greatly improve atomization due to ethanol's ease of breaking down from its liquid form. 

Typically, it's best to trust your local mechanic and the car manufacturer. Numerous ​studies about atomization have been conducted to attempt to reduce emissions while improving performance in vehicles and those currently coming on the market — especially eco vehicles — are typically the most efficient version we've discovered to date.