The Advanced Engineering Technology Conference may sound like a gathering of brainiacs discussing computer code or the best materials for bridge abutments, but don't let the name fool you. The AETC, as it's commonly known, is all about engines, and it gets even better than that. The AETC focuses on the most innovative ways to make big-time horsepower. The only time fuel economy is mentioned is when someone is discussing combustion efficiency in order to burn more fuel and--you guessed it--make more power.

Last year, Circle Track covered the AETC conference because it was concentrating on stock car racing engine technology. But we decided to return this year even though there was no specific category topic, it was general engine technology. However, the quality of information available was second to none and we wanted to pass it along to you.

This year, the 22nd annual AETC featured such speakers as Edelbrock's Dr. Rick Roberts, who provided insights on how he designed some of Edelbrock's best performing intake manifolds; drag racing engine builder Jon Kaase on making big power with big cubic inch engines; Lake Speed Jr. on how to determine the best oil for your racing engine; and Roush Yates Engines' Josh Stewart provided a behind-the-scenes look at how Roush Yates developed new racing engine packages.

The AETC covers nearly three full days filled with speakers, demonstrations, and group discussions on practically every engine related topic imaginable--as long as it relates to making your racing effort better. Obviously, we can't bring you all of it, but here are a few highlights. If you are interested in attending for yourself next year, the AETC will be held in Orlando, November 26-28. Circle Track magazine will again be sponsoring the conference as we have the last two years. It's a highly technical, highly valuable three-day event. For more information, check out www.aetconline.com.

The Real Source of Detonation

One of the greatest aspects of the AETC is that it encourages its speakers to discuss a topic honestly without feeling the need to become a pitchman for the companies they work for. Every speaker is very highly qualified in his or her chosen field, so this often leads to some interesting nuggets of information that aren't directly tied to what you think a particular person's area of expertise should be.

For example, Richard Keller is an engineer with Champion Spark Plugs, and his presentation was based on the principles of ignition for high-performance engines, as you might expect. But he also touched on a few things he's learned through his extensive research that don't specifically relate to the ignition system. One area where the spark plugs are often blamed incorrectly is when racers or engine builders experience detonation with an engine. They may say the plug is too hot in the heat range or otherwise creating hot spots in the combustion chamber. Detonation is a serious issue in high-performance racing engines, but have you ever considered the idea that the real source of detonation your engine is suffering from is because of the cooling system?

Keller points out that high- performance heads often move the intake ports and valve locations and change the shape of the combustion chambers. The head manufacturer's focus is on improving torque and horsepower and as a result, the water jacket volume is often compromised. Now, not only is your engine producing more power--which equals heat--the heads also have less volume of coolant flowing through them.

Of course, few of us are willing to dial back on the power just to get more water moving through the heads, so one solution Keller offered is to look at the amount of turbulence of the air/fuel mixture the cylinder head creates. More turbulence equals better movement of the air/fuel charge inside the chamber. This reduces the chance for any fuel to remain against a hot spot long enough to ignite on its own before the spark plug fires and causes detonation. So, if you can find a pair of heads that produce more swirl and tumble, all things being equal, you're less likely to see engine damaging detonation.