Tennessee Patent of the Month – March 2021

Compressed natural gas (CNG) powered vehicles are quite commonplace, with multiple tanks providing fuel to the engine. Solenoid valves help to control the flow of the gas toward the engine. When a solenoid valve fails, a fuel leak begins. Typical detection systems track solenoid failures and provide an indicator light in the cabin of the vehicle. The driver has to get out and check the detection module positioned at the back of the vehicle. These solenoid failures are detected by a pressure differential which occurs as the leak progresses, which means the leak is occurring for a while before any indication is made. The Heil Co. is a big truck manufacturer, and always strives to improve their functionality. They decided to develop a CNG leak detection system.

Their system provides detection over all of the CNG tanks in a vehicle. A control valve mechanism for each tank couples a tank to a sensor. The sensor monitors the tank and sends information to a processor which displays the information. The solenoid valves are positioned within the control mechanism, so that they open up to allow gas to exit the tank when needed and close off to stop the flow. If a solenoid valve fails and prevents the flow of gas, the sensor reports this failure. Same thing happens if it fails to close. When the vehicle is running, a drop in pressure indicates a leak and the processor then sends an audio signal to alert the driver. Then it sends a signal to disable the solenoid valves when the ignition is off. This provides the driver with rapid knowledge of leaks and failures and indicates the precise location for the mechanic.

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