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New Gasoline Engine Prototype Claims 3X Current Engine Efficiency

Roblimo posted more than 3 years ago | from the shifting-into-a-higher-gear dept.

Transportation 377

erfnet writes "A cool new high-efficiency gasoline engine prototype has no radiator, no pistons, no valves, no transmission, and no fluids (except for the fuel). At first glance it has a few similarities with the Wankel engine, but is more advanced. The engine is only suited for hybrid-electric vehicles, but that's okay. The efficiency they are claiming: is over 3x what today's gasoline engines produce. The developers, a team at Michigan State University, hope to have this engine on the market in the next two/three years."

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First Post ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767128)

It does look awful like a gas turbine ...

Re:First Post ? (2, Insightful)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767162)

"shock wave that ignites the compressed air and fuel to transmit energy." Sounds like a V1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V-1_(flying_bomb)#Power_plant [wikipedia.org] .
German tech is alive again for the next generation of US scientists. Back to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysler_Turbine_Car [wikipedia.org] soon :)

Re:First Post ? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767346)

It does sound a little bit like the V1.

At about :36, he states that the cycle is the P{something}-humphrey cycle. I wasn't able to hear what that first word was, as he mumbles through it like Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness, but the humphrey cycle in my brief skimming of google scholar, does in fact appear to be a pulse-detonation cycle.

Re:First Post ? (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767380)

Let's just hope it will be a little more quiet than a JB-2 (American copy of a V1's engine) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Q9oAPrvZo [youtube.com]

Re:First Post ? (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767676)

German tech is alive again for the next generation of US scientists.

Germans seem to have designed or had a major hand in the majority of major combustion engines:
Nikolaus Otto - (4 stroke)
Otto Diesel
Felix Wankel

Hopefully, Norbert Mueller's engine is actually good enough to be added to this list:) Time will tell.

Get ready to read another.... (0)

3seas (184403) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767130)

...Dead inventor article.

Re:Get ready to read another.... (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767246)

I don't think he will be 'dissaspeared' for 'inventing' the gas turbine.

Re:Get ready to read another.... (3, Interesting)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767698)

It's not really a new invention... and the car companies really don't care. My grandfather spent the last 30 years of his life developping what's essentially a combustion-powered hydraulic motor... his plan was to use the hydraulic pressure in large industrial applications (think power generation), but the math showed that it would still be far more efficient than traditional ICE's in cars and trucks. He had a working model in 1982, and a car on the road driven by it in 1984. GM offered him $1million for it, with the explicit promise that they'd sweep it under the rug and never develop it further... being ethical, my grandfather told them to stuff it, and ended up never selling the design.

Car companies won't make him disappear, they just won't care and won't buy his product. If they do buy his product it'll be with the expressed promise that they won't do anything with it. That's not going to change until the car companies are forced to sell off their interests in the oil companies.

Re:Get ready to read another.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767800)

To some degree I agree with you. However, there are International car companies that care much more about fuel efficiency than American companies. One would hope that Toyota, Hyundai, and other international players will take this technology much more seriously and license it from him.

Very soon the oil companies will buy the patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767132)

then sit on it so we have to buy, buy, buy! I SAW IT ON GLENN BECK!

Unlike copyrights, patents expire (5, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767148)

Let's assume for a moment this conspiracy theory and pretend that major oil and natural gas companies have bought up a bunch of energy-related patents that were filed before 1991 and granted before 1994. Now that those patents have expired, why haven't products based on those inventions been announced?

Re:Unlike copyrights, patents expire (-1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767172)

A wild tea partier appears!
tepples uses "logic and reason".
It's not very effective.

Re:Unlike copyrights, patents expire (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767718)

An obnoxious troll appears!
tepples responds for no apparent reason
bunratty completely misses the point
burmashave

Re:Unlike copyrights, patents expire (2)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767748)

Most tea partiers just want less government spending. Considering that 1997's entire US federal budget equals 2011's deficit, I'd say they have good reasons.

Re:Very soon the oil companies will buy the patent (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767420)

Thankfully that idiot has just quit Fox News! *Phew* At last he's done something right.

But what will Jon Stewart base most of his programs on?

The Daily Chimpout (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767136)

Today, featuring Denny's Brawl [youtube.com]

obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767140)

In Soviet Russia engine efficiency claims you 3X

Digital technology of the future (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767142)

Low resistance digital logic will power the future. Imagine speeding down an information superhighway at the speed of knowledge. The cyber world world of the future will eliminate racism, hatred, and reform gender roles--in short enabling circumspect and measured debate on important issues.

This is my manifesto, I will be hurd.

Re:Digital technology of the future (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767382)

Bitchin', put it on a t-shirt.

Red Herring. (0)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767144)

"The developers, a team at Michigan State University, hope to have this engine on the market in the next two/three years." Seen too many of these stories. If this happens within three years, I will eat my hat.

Re:Red Herring. (0)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767262)

Just like the Wankel engine, it just needs someone to invent a magic seal material for the rotor and then it will take over the world!

How are those litre-of-oil-every-100-km Mazdas working out these days?

Re:Red Herring. (2)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767374)

Pretty sure they solved the apex seal problem well before introducing the RX-8 almost a decade ago.....

Re:Red Herring. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767796)

They did. RX-8 works OK ( I owned one)
However the thermodynamic efficiency of the Wankel is poor.
I averaged 16mpg in that thing.
Driving an SUV is cheaper!

Re:Red Herring. (3, Informative)

gander666 (723553) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767410)

I loved my RX-7's. Damn fun car to drive, dead simple to work on, and remarkably reliable. Back then I didn't mind the oil consumption. It was more like a quart every 600 or so miles (1000kms +/-) But they were gas guzzlers. I think I use to get ~ 15MPG even when I was not driving aggressively.

Now I drive a Honda S2000, enjoy better efficiency (but not great), and have an equally exciting drive. Ah, progress

Re:Red Herring. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767794)

I got about the same MPG in both of mine and I had to adjust and clean the ignition points just about every week. On the positive side, I don't think I ever actually "changed" the oil much, I relied on the natural feed and bleed method and just replaced the filter.

15 MPG from a 1.1 liter engine in a car that only weighed 2300lbs. Not very fuel efficient at all but it did make about 100HP per liter.

Re:Red Herring. (2)

mfnickster (182520) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767304)

Pshaw. I predict we'll be buying Chinese knock-offs of it within 2 years!

Re:Red Herring. (0)

vmaldia (1846072) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767334)

"The developers, a team at Michigan State University, hope to have this engine on the market in the next two/three years." Seen too many of these stories. If this happens within three years, I will eat my hat.

amen. extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. or else just submit it to the mythbusters

Let's see how this pans out (1)

RenHoek (101570) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767146)

Some amazing claims.. I hope they'll be able to prove them..

Although I'm more hoping for huge leaps in renewable fuel technology. The more efficient petrol based fuel engines become, the less funding for other techs.

Fuel engines and taxation (4, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767300)

Although I'm more hoping for huge leaps in renewable fuel technology. The more efficient petrol based fuel engines become, the less funding for other techs.

One problem is the tax structure.

As for petrol: Production of renewable fuel for petrol vehicles (that is, ethanol fuel) isn't exactly efficient outside of perhaps Brazil. As I understand it, producing ethanol from sugarcane is more efficient than producing it from corn. But most countries that demand petrol and ethanol are , and they've enacted import tariffs and farm price supports to make the corn method artificially more attractive. This could change if researchers perfect production of ethanol from switchgrass.

As for diesel: Soy biodiesel already has a positive EROEI, and production of biodiesel from microalgae looked promising last time I checked. But diesel is more commonly used on trucks and buses than on cars. A lot of U.S. cities lack good bus transit, and apart from Volkswagen's TDI vehicles, few automakers want to try marketing diesel cars in the United States, even after the nationwide switch to ultra-low-sulfur diesel a few years ago.

Re:Fuel engines and taxation (1)

DevConcepts (1194347) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767444)

A lot of U.S. cities lack good bus transit, and apart from Volkswagen's TDI vehicles, few automakers want to try marketing diesel cars in the United States, even after the nationwide switch to ultra-low-sulfur diesel a few years ago.

Take a look at BMW starting to push diesel also.

http://www.bmwusa.com/Standard/Content/Uniquely/BMWEfficientDynamics/ExploreAdvancedDiesel.aspx#intro/landing [bmwusa.com]

Re:Fuel engines and taxation (3, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767776)

few automakers want to try marketing diesel cars in the United States, even after the nationwide switch to ultra-low-sulfur diesel a few years ago.

Easy solution: Throw out US regulations that artificially create an isolated market for vehicles and allow people to import vehicles from overseas. I've done it before they tightened up the rules protecting US dealerships. Several vehicles that I've purchased (Toyota Landcruiser, for example) are available overseas in diesel versions. I would have bought one (much better mileage than the gasoline version) had it been legal to import.

Re:Fuel engines and taxation (2)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767878)

what makes you think congress will loosen regulations (liked by democrats) which act to artificially prop up businesses at the cost to the everyday american (liked by republicans)

Re:Fuel engines and taxation (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767810)

I've read that every gallon of corn ethanol takes a gallon of gasoline to produce. It also takes about 1870 gallons of water for that amount of corn to grow. A decreasing water table has been a fact in the midwest for decades.

Ethanol is also harder on engines. And according to consumer reports, mpg is worse on the standard 0.9 gasoline 0.1 ethanol mix than if you just took the decrease amount of gas w/o ethanol. (I.e. 10 gallons of mix gas takes you less distance than 9 gallons pure gasoline.) This means even more pollution.

I really can't figure out why so many states are going to this stuff, who have no significant corn industry to push it. It's just really stupid.

Diesel engined Cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767842)

Unlike the US, things are very different here in Europe. If we consider France, more than 60% of Cars sold every year are Diesel Engined.
I drive a Saab Estate 2.1ltr Diesel. I get 42mpg(imperial gallons) around town and more than 50 and even as high as 56mpg on a long trip to the Pyrenees last year.
All the European Auto makers have a lot of GasOil powered cars in their ranges.

Quite why US Car buyers won't buy a Diesel Engined version instead of Petrol(Gas) powered is something that has always puzzled me.

The efficiency seems too high for a heat engine (3, Insightful)

raptor_87 (881471) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767166)

Though an article with more technical details (I couldn't find anything going through the linked websites) might help.

Re:The efficiency seems too high for a heat engine (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767528)

They are probably using a 400mpg carburetor they salvaged from that Camaro that they got so cheap (because they couldn't get the dead-body smell from the flooded interior). With a flipped air filter lid, and a knot in the coil wires, I bet a guy could get even better efficiency.

skeptical ... (2)

dougmc (70836) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767176)

The Wave Disk Generator uses 60 percent of its fuel for propulsion; standard car engines use just 15 percent. As a result, the generator is 3.5 times more fuel efficient than typical combustion engines.

They're claiming 60% efficiency? It's still a heat engine, so their absolute maximum efficiency is based on how hot they can get things and how cold it is outside, and I'm skeptical that they can get it hot enough for 60% efficiency from gasoline. (Actually, I don't think they said gasoline -- I don't think they said any specific fuel.)

And what's this thing about "the engine is only suited for hybrid-electric vehicles, but that's okay. " ... what does THAT mean?

Somehow I doubt this is going to pan out quite like they say it will.

Re:skeptical ... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767192)

"what does THAT mean"

I believe the engine runs best at constant speed making if suited for electric generation, not powering stop & start driving.

Re:skeptical ... (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767814)

We already have an efficient engine type that fits those exact characteristics, the stirling engine. (Maybe this new one is much lighter).

Re:skeptical ... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767212)

And what's this thing about "the engine is only suited for hybrid-electric vehicles, but that's okay. " ... what does THAT mean?

I think it means the engine can only go at a single speed, unlike a standard engine that can change speed as you accelerate. So instead of driving the wheels from this single-speed motor, you charge a battery, and use the battery to drive the wheels at different speeds.

Re:skeptical ... (5, Insightful)

EvilRyry (1025309) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767224)

And what's this thing about "the engine is only suited for hybrid-electric vehicles, but that's okay. " ... what does THAT mean?

Most likely it means that the engine has terrible spin up/down times and/or is inefficient at doing them. Its best operated at constant speed, generating electricity for an electric motor which actually pushes you forward.

Re:skeptical ... (3, Interesting)

dougmc (70836) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767278)

And what's this thing about "the engine is only suited for hybrid-electric vehicles, but that's okay. " ... what does THAT mean?

Most likely it means that the engine has terrible spin up/down times and/or is inefficient at doing them. Its best operated at constant speed, generating electricity for an electric motor which actually pushes you forward.

That would be my guess too.

But that could be handled with a CV transmission too.

Perhaps it can't be throttled down easily, so it's always putting out full power, so it either needs to be charging a battery or powering the car or shut off if neither is needed?

But even so, if it's 60% efficient, that's huge -- more efficient than our large turbines that power power plants, ships, etc. -- these things would easily tolerate an engine that takes a long time to spin up or down, or could only be run at full power or speed. It's not just hybrids.

Re:skeptical ... (3, Interesting)

Junta (36770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767516)

The only concrete spec I could find that could be tied to this was the 25 kw (33 hp) power max. That might be enough to have somewhat more-than-required power at unambitious cruising speeds, but would absolutely not be able to deliver sufficient acceleration and therefore need to save up excess capacity (when available) in a battery and delivered via an electric motor.

Also, hypothetically, if the spin-up time was ludicrously slow, a CV would not help a car go from a stopped position up to highway speed.

Re:skeptical ... (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767568)

Also, hypothetically, if the spin-up time was ludicrously slow, a CV would not help a car go from a stopped position up to highway speed.

The only reason I can think of to have a ludicrously slow spin-up speed would be if it was really heavy -- but they explicitly say it's light.

But even if it takes a minute to speed up, they could just run it at full speed all the time and modulate the power it emits to whatever is needed to maintain speed. I do imagine that this would hurt efficiency somewhat. Perhaps put two or three in a car and shut 1 or 2 down when not needed? Unless it's always working at full power at full speed, of course.

Personally, I think it's not going to happen in any vehicle. This is hardly the first time we've been told about some grand new engine that is so much more efficient than what we've got, often even more efficient than the Carnot efficiency could be, and they never happen ...

Re:skeptical ... (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767562)

Kind of like a turbine, which have been around for decades and are also "Very similar to a wankel engine."

Re:skeptical ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767786)

except that turbines are notoriously fuel INefficient.

Re:skeptical ... (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767738)

Most likely it means that the engine has terrible spin up/down times and/or is inefficient at doing them. Its best operated at constant speed, generating electricity for an electric motor which actually pushes you forward.

Much like modern trains except they have diesel engines.

Re:skeptical ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767242)

This seems to break the Laws of thermodynamics, as that is better than the Carnot efficiency

Re:skeptical ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767298)

Checking that fount of all knowledge https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Carnot_efficiency [wikimedia.org] we get that the combustion products need to be 1560 degC for the theoretical efficiency of .6 and this would give a practical efficiency of about .55. 1560 dec C can only be done in a combustion chamber with extra oxygen

Re:skeptical ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767376)

OK with a quick re-calc on that at 63% efficiency for the combustion to give a shaft efficiency of 60% and the combustion temperature jumps up to 1870 deg C

Re:skeptical ... (4, Informative)

tulcod (1056476) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767392)

Well I don't know what algebra you learned, but an efficiency of 60% and outside (cold) temperature of 20 degrees celsius (293 degrees Kelvin) gives me a hot temperature of 459 degrees celsius, which is practical.

Re:skeptical ... (3, Informative)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767464)

I think he's using the Chambadal-Novikov efficiency, not the Carnot efficiency. C-N better models practical engines, but it's not an absolute limit.

Good luck with that... (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767574)

That would imply the exhaust gas left the combustion chamber at 20C. This would mean that the cylinder and piston operated at 20C and the expansion cycle had expansion to well beyond atmospheric. I'm afraid that a theoretical Carnot cycle engine cannot be built unless you have an almost infinitely long stroke to bore ratio on the exhaust stroke, and are discharging into a vacuum. (I know pushing_robot was kind of making the same point, but I thought it needed to be clarified for people who haven't done practical thermodynamics.)

Re:skeptical ... (2)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767722)

I guess it will work better once thte Republican Congress repeals the Laws of Thermodynamics

Re:skeptical ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767254)

To make some wild speculation based on nothing at all:

Turbine engines are not well-suited for ordinary cars because they take too long to spool up and spool down, and their idle fuel consumption is ridiculous.
However, a hybrid with a large battery system can recharge while idling, and use the electric motors for motive force, since electric motors have no problem spooling up and down quickly.

So if this is similar to a turbine, it might be good in a hybrid, where an electric drivetrain would provide good performance and the main engine would only act as a constant-power source, with the batteries providing more or less power as needed.

Re:skeptical ... (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767256)

And what's this thing about "the engine is only suited for hybrid-electric vehicles, but that's okay. " ... what does THAT mean?

My guess is that it wont handle rapid speed changes well and is most efficient at a constant speed, so running a generator is about the only thing it will do well. Just like any other turbine.

So: it doesn't add up. (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767408)

The last gasoline engines to do about 15% efficiency were two strokes. Modern ones do more like 25-30. Diesels achieve 35-45 (or even more in marines engines.) To get a high efficiency you need a high compression ratio and a relatively large combustion chamber to reduce heat loss (around 400-500cc seems to be the best tradeoff, while some CR Diesels are achieving peak combustion pressures up to 180 bar. Yes, that is combustion pressure, not injection pressure).

Now, modern variable vane turbocharged Diesels can give high torque over a wide range of speeds - more or less constant from 1500-3000 rpm is not unknown. This thing seems to be a constant speed machine. OK, do a little maths:

My guess is that the 60% efficiency is IHP, Let's be generous and assume SHP is 55% of theoretical.

The machine is constant speed and drives a generator. Generator efficiency around 85%.

55% * 85% = 47%, only very slightly better than a Diesel you can probably buy from VW or BMW today.

So what is the point? There will be new problems of pollution - running hot gas down narrow passages - new reliability and metallurgical problems to overcome. There will be a whole industrial pyramid from parts factory to service guy to tool and train. Three years? More like 25, if the time the shift to Diesel took is any guide. But, when the Diesel transition happened in Europe, Diesels had roughly 50-60% of the fuel costs of gasoline. This time, the fuel advantage would be zero-5%. It seems pretty pointless.

Re:So: it doesn't add up. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767610)

You forget the engine size and weight should be smaller so even if it's the same efficiency, you will get better gas mileage due to weight reduction. That said, i'm more interested in the possibility of it being more reliable since you don't have to deal with as much parts/fluids. This is especially true for those who don't know enough about cars to actually maintain them like checking fluid levels ever so often.

Well, I'll wait to see it in an actual car before I put any hopes in it. Who knows if there are issues that have to be dealt with using this new engine.

Re:skeptical ... (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767276)

And what's this thing about "the engine is only suited for hybrid-electric vehicles, but that's okay. " ... what does THAT mean?

That usually means it can't produce high impulse power, like accelerating from a stop. It uses the batteries to buffer power production and recharges this during lower consumption, uses regenerative braking, etc.

That brings up the worry that it has a low average impulse output, which becomes a problem when you need continuous higher output, such as when out on the highway. It may not be capable of maintaining highway speeds. That has always been an issue with hybrids, a lot of work has to be put into making sure they can go the distance.

Sort of reminds me of a sterling engine in that respect. Doesn't matter how efficient it is if you can't meet your power requirements. Though the confusing thing is he was saying how this is going to be so much lighter... if it was lighter, why not increase the size of the engine, or put in a twin, for higher power output? Maybe it's really bulky. (there was quite a bit of "stuff" in that lab, you gonna fit that into a mini couper?)

And it says they showed off a prototype, but I never saw anything short of that little aluminum/acrylic wheel he was playing with, and the camera pan around in a large chaotic lab with little in the way of identifiable machinery. (that could be a brewery for all I could tell, and hey, nice stepladder) And the only useful picture in that article wasn't much bigger than a chicklet. here [zdnet.com] is a bigger one you can actually read. What's wrong with the author of that article?

Not a problem with hybrids, actually (3, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767532)

There is no problem at all with maintaining legal highway speeds with a hybrid; the gasoline engine is designed to be able to maintain a speed on the level of over 100mph. US cars tend to be vastly over-engined because...because other cars are vastly over-engined, hence the fuel-glugging traffic light/highway merge race. The hybrid is a very logical solution to the problem of providing an engine with sufficient power for cruising, with a booster available for acceleration. After over 20 years of Diesels, I've now decided that hybrids are Good Enough for my next car. This is partly because I suspect that rising oil prices are going to force a change in driver behaviour; many of the worst drivers are probably only marginally able to afford their vehicles.

The difficulty with this thing is that it is NOT suitable (if you read the article) for a hybrid. That's because the engine is unsuited for use as the baseload prime mover. It is only suitable for a full electric transmission with battery storage. Full electric transmissions are expensive and inefficient and, as I note in another post, probably can't compete with plain old Diesel.

I've been looking at full electric transmission for my next boat design, using a constant speed generator Diesel to run a large alternator with direct drive to the motors and auxiliary battery to enable short term high power (i.e. twice the generator output for an hour.) So I have been doing the maths...and it doesn't add up. It is more efficient and cheaper to have a small Diesel prime mover topping out at 2400rpm, and an auxiliary electric motor to boost shaft speed to 3000 for short periods(owing to the cube law, both motors have the same power.) I'm just confirming what Toyota and others already found out - hybrid is the most efficient.

Re:Not a problem with hybrids, actually (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767746)

Why bother with transmissions, crankshafts, axels, and so on? Just extra weight to haul around. Hubless eletric motors on all wheels.

Re:skeptical ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767360)

It's a steam engine!!!

Re:skeptical ... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767452)

They're claiming 60% efficiency? It's still a heat engine, so their absolute maximum efficiency is based on how hot they can get things and how cold it is outside, and I'm skeptical that they can get it hot enough for 60% efficiency from gasoline. (Actually, I don't think they said gasoline -- I don't think they said any specific fuel.)

Carnot efficiency doesn't enter into it; gasoline easily burns hot enough to do 60% efficiency with a room temperature cold reservoir.

Re:skeptical ... (1)

quenda (644621) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767482)

They're claiming 60% efficiency?

No, TFA is bullshit. 60% is the theoretical maximum, which is the same as a steam/gas tubbine. Is this one?
They don't say what the prototype achieves. Diesel can be 35%, which is the current choice for a series hybrid, e.g. locomotives.

"the engine is only suited for hybrid-electric vehicles, but that's okay. " ... what does THAT mean?

It probably means the engine is constant speed. Maybe useful in parallel hybrid with CV gearbox?

Re:skeptical ... (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767558)

Plutonium. It has to run on Plutonium.

It means... (3, Informative)

Pollux (102520) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767608)

You didn't read the flippin' article.

If you had, you would have likely watched the youtube vid that explained the concept.

This engine is not an engine that directly propels a vehicle as a standard internal combustion engine does. Such engines are very inefficient, as much of the energy exerted is converted to heat, not to mention the additional energy that's used just to propel the weight of the engine itself. If there was a way to reduce the heat generated, and/or create a smaller and/or lighter engine that significantly reduces its mass, you would significantly improve energy efficiency. (Example: When engine blocks moved from cast iron to aluminum, it not only reduced the weight of the engine, but also allowed quicker transfer of heat energy out of the engine. Significant improvement of engine efficiency.)

This new engine has only one purpose: to spin a generator which charges the motor's batteries. With only that purpose in mind, this particular engine only has to run at a single speed to generate the RPM necessary to spin a generator. There's no need for lots of torque to propel the car forward at low speeds, plus one single RPM means that no drive train is necessary, plus one single RPM means that you can really simplify the design of the engine so that a minimal amount of cooling is required. All-in-all, you cut probably 90% off the weight of the engine, no longer require a radiator, and can transfer most of the energy generated directly to the generator, resulting in a much more efficient car.

Re:It means... (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767744)

I did read the article. I didn't watch the video.

It could directly propel a vehicle if it wanted. It's probably as others have said -- it either takes a long time to spin up, or must always be run at full speed and/or power. Which could easily propel many vehicles, it's just poorly suited to cars -- *including* hybrids, I might add. (Though adding multiple smaller engines that are switched off as needed could help make it work for a hybrid car.)

As for a minimal amount of cooling being needed, that's less an issue of the design of the engine and more a function of it's efficiency -- if it's more efficient, that means less energy is wasted as heat, so less cooling is needed. Still, being 60% efficient rather than 20% efficient would reduce the cooling needed by a factor of six for a given power output -- pretty substantial. (I'm very skeptical of this 60% figure, however.)

And batteries are heavy. A 2010 Prius has a 150 lb battery that will contains about 2000 watt hours of energy -- so if you need 50 hp of energy out of
that, it'll provide it for about three minutes. If they are planning on running the engine for a while to charge the battery, then shutting it off when the battery is full as the battery powers the car ... they'll need a lot more batteries than a Prius has, sucking up any weight savings from a smaller engine and then some.

Re:skeptical ... (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767730)

And what's this thing about "the engine is only suited for hybrid-electric vehicles, but that's okay. " ... what does THAT mean?

Somehow I doubt this is going to pan out quite like they say it will.

Well, my guess is that it has very little torque but high RPM, like a turbine. A piston engine has a torque curve like a distorted parabola. Where the vertical axis is torque and the horizontal axis is RPM. The wider the torque curve, the better performance the engine has, allowing you to "stay in gear" longer. A turbine tends to have a torque curve shaped more like a positive slope with an abrupt end. Requiring a different type of transmission.

Energy is force over time, and engine power is measured as torque * RPM. So, the problem: for cars, torque is king. 0-60 is all about torque. "Driving Excitement" is acceleration. While a turbine may produce more power, that power comes from high RPM, but, unfortunately, low torque. Gearing is not much of an answer because transmissions are fairly inefficient. Just try to use a hand mixer in gear oil.

Using a turbine to produce electricity is a great idea. Let's be honest here, regardless of what they call it or how it looks, it is just a new kind of turbine. You can spin that sucker at its most efficient RPM, produce as much electricity as you need, and let electric current give you your torque. Will this be more efficient than a gas engine? Maybe or maybe not. We'll see. (or not)

wait and see (1)

phrostie (121428) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767196)

still waiting to see a working model that will run for a minute or two.

also, they talk about reducing the weight by eliminating the transmission, but do they talk about the weight of the generators or electric motors?

Re:wait and see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767296)

This engine will be used to generate electricity to drive electric motors. With an electric vehicle you do not need a transmission.

Oh dear (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767544)

Sorry, but epic comprehension fail. What is the generator, the DC drive, the one or more electric motors and the gearing/CV shafts and so on that get the power to the wheels if they aren't a transmission - and a complex one at that.

Wankel like hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767222)

"it has a few similarities with the Wankel engine"
Wankel patent holders will be so happy of hearing that.
Inventor will be sued in .... 3 ......2.....

Re:Wankel like hmmm (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767252)

If what he's holding is the engine, it looks nothing like a Wankel.

It's circular. That's the cause of any very superficial resemblance.

Re:Wankel like hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767340)

Last I checked, patents expired after 20 years

3 times? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767238)

Well the video doesn't match the picture.

And the video doesn't match the article text.

It seems like some sort of intermittent combustion turbine. I'm curious how they can raise Tc enough to beat a diesel.

Re:3 times? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767274)

Raising Tc kills your efficiency, though...

if its too good to believe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767244)

the youtube video was posted in 2009! recycled for a slow news day?

Expensive? (1)

CruelKnave (1324841) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767272)

Two to three years, but probably at two to three times the price. I'm all for saving the planet, but as long as the "greener" products cost way more than the standard ones, I'll probably remain a polluter.

Re:Expensive? (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767336)

Products that use less energy often cost less in the long run because energy is expensive and continuing to get more expensive. A compact fluorescent bulb may cost several times more than an incandescent, but it can save more than $20 in energy costs. As gasoline prices continue to climb, high-efficiency cars will only get more and more attractive economically, and they'll also become cheaper as the technology gets more widespread and economies of scale come into play.

Re:Expensive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767388)

I'm all for saving the planet, but as long as the "greener" products cost way more than the standard ones, I'll probably remain a polluter.

Stupid Fucker, You're all for saving the planet as long as it cost's you zero, or as long as you don't have to change your habits. Go fuck yourself.

hang on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767280)

3x the efficiency of an american engine or an engine anywhere else?

if it's an engine anywhere else then that's something to read about

obligatory xkcd reference (1)

MooMooFarm (725996) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767282)

"The developers, a team at Michigan State University, hope to have this engine on the market in the next two/three years."

Oh no! Two/three years falls suspiciously close to the forth quarter of next year or, in other words, the project will be canceled in six months! Oh well.. it was a good run.

http://xkcd.com/678/ [xkcd.com]

The guy in the TFV doesn't seem very confident. (1)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767348)

And why do we never get to see one of these prototype rotating engines running?

Re:The guy in the TFV doesn't seem very confident. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767430)

That was my thought - where's the prototype?

My guess is that they've run through it on paper, and it "should just work". Given the diagram, this looks simple enough that making one would take a few weeks, given a decent draftsman and machinist. Call me when you have a prototype... *yawn*. I've seen lots of things that "should just work" on paper that either just don't, or have all sorts of unforseen problems that make them suck.

Old News? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767358)

Has this projected matured to power generation phase? Because the concept, and indeed the video introduction of the device by Professor Mueller are nearly two years old already. That interview was posted back in October of 2009. I'm hopeful the resurgence in interest here is an indication that they now have a working prototype.

Original 10/2009 news release - including the same video that appears in todays article:

MSU receives $2.5 million DOE award to build advanced hybrid engine [msu.edu]

Re:Old News? (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767440)

Maybe now they have an even newer design, one that produces even more DOE and VC money and runs entirely on vapor, which is an infinitely renewable resource.

New gas Saves 1000 pounds, but "no transmission*" (1)

doug141 (863552) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767364)

*Needs an electric transmission. Still, the saving of 1000 pounds will add to the fuel savings. Sounds a lot like a gas turbine, although they claim better fuel economy.

25 Kilowatts? (1)

JD770 (1227350) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767368)

Cool! If that little thing can produce 25kw, then I hope the vehicle it powers has a connection to power your house when the storm takes out the grid!

I'm in seriuous doubt about this. (1)

g00ey (1494205) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767396)

here are just way too many questions unanswered for me to buy this. Firstly, how does it work? He doesn't put any effort into explaining how it works. He should demonstrate the full assembly and it's operation. All the abuse of "ultra" also feels very inappropriate.

Sure under optimal conditions the efficiency may be 60% but could this really be sustained under all conditions? The figure 3.5 times seems to be taken out of nowhere. What does he mean with a combustion engine? The Diesel engine is more efficient than the Otto/Gasoline engine but the efficiency can be improved on an Otto engine if you increase the compression (which is possible when using high octane fuels such as ethanol or gas). A Diesel engine can have up to 40-45% efficiency. Since this is intended for hybrid cars, we also have to account for the losses that occur in the conversion to electricity (electrical generators for vehicular use lie at about 60-80%) and the inefficiency of the electrical engine (around 60%). So the overall efficiency in such a system would then be 0.6*0.6*0.6 which is about 20-25%.

Then what about operation and durability. How long does an engine like this engine last before it becomes inoperable? What happens to the efficiency during the lifetime of such an engine? An old engine may only be half as efficient as a new one. What about cooling, can it get overheated in certain situations? Is it reliable or is it prone to stalling? Is it easy to start and stop or does it need extended warm-up and cool down periods.

I feel sad to say this but I cannot feel naught but that this guy is a joke and I cannot take him seriously.

Old news (1)

Kakao (1626933) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767436)

A video from October 2009 is not news.

Even if it never makes it into a car (2)

voss (52565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767448)

Imagine an emergency generator 4 times more efficient than current models...

Yes the military would be very much interested in generators that only require 1/4 as much fuel especially
considering the cost transporting fuel to combat areas as would hospitals, the red cross, FEMA.

Looks Familiar (1)

CrazyDuke (529195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767502)

It looks very similar to a sketch design I came up with in college. But, I did not (still don't) have the engineering background to make it around the actual number crunching needed to make it efficient, much less the money and machining facilities to actually throw at a prototype that would likely be inefficient due to not having calculated optimum shapes and proportions. Knowing which alloys to use: Shaft wear, rotor, and wall erosion being the big issues here, especially without rings. Things have to be kept tight or too much stuff leaks around.

For instance, mine used "fins" on the rotor that started out normal to the center shaft and then curved to about 45 degree's near the outer "wall" which had the ungrounded end of the "spark plug" and the exhaust. A later design of a Wankel-like rotary came out showed that the exhaust should not be quite at the outer wall due to unspent fuel getting into the exhaust. I don't think I got around clearing out almost all the exhaust and replacing it with fresh fuel and air, either. But, now that I think about it again, it would just be a simple matter of separating the air and fuel injection portions of the cycle. I was trying to dump it in pre-mixed, which would either have to compress existing post combustion material that did not flee during the exhaust cycle, or run the risk of mixing too much and ending up in the exhaust system which would backfire. Variable torque was also an issue, as it seemed like it would be easy to stall and blow out the fins. Hybrids had not yet made it on the scene and had not caught my eye.

I do not know why I am spouting off about this. I guess it just brings back memories about things I would like to do, but cannot due to lack of resources. But, whatever, something about inspiration and perspiration.

Sparty On (1)

nateross (1265250) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767510)

I guess this gives new meaning to the school's slogan "Go Green".... perhaps "Sparty On" will be replaced with a "Sputtering On"

god not ready for alternative energy, disarmament? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35767556)

there are efficient non-polluting energy sources available. maybe our information carbonation has a vapor lock somewhere?

next up, pending other behaviors; the roots of the hymen (scandal) exposed. sounds gross. the reality is even worse.

Not New, Nor Even Newish (4, Interesting)

Anna Merikin (529843) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767704)

The same video shown in the linked article is from UTube, uploaded Oct. 29, 2009.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uf_-IMgla34 [youtube.com]

The concept of a detonation-wave engine is not new either. I remember reading about one in Popular Mechanics or one of its clones in the fifties or early sixties of the past century.

Seems like PR fluff to me. And that's not new, either.

Has trappings of snake oil. (1)

guidryp (702488) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767854)

They are using 15% as their baseline automotive number to inflate their ridiculous 3.5x efficiency claim. That should set off alarm bells right there. This is clearly an attempt to exaggerate the impact across the board here.

I suspect the 60% efficiency number is purely theoretical and likely compounded by errors or even fabrications given the snake oil like claim.

I don't see anything credible going on here.

This appears to be some kind of micro-turbine, they best of which rarely top 30% efficiency.

I certainly wouldn't invest a dollar in this, and IMO the chance of this ever getting beyond prototype is near zero.

As noted the video is from 2009, surely there should be a running prototype by now?

Shock Waves (1)

Mapleperson (1316213) | more than 3 years ago | (#35767862)

The engine probably uses shock waves to produce the compression necessary for combustion. As such it would have a high minimum RPM. And due to material strength and the high heat inside the engine the maximum RPM probably is close to the minimum RPM. This engine would need to run a generator to maintain its efficiency. At this high RPM it would run a generator that could be very efficient, maybe up to 95% and could be made very small, maybe incorporated into the engine itself.
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