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HydroICE Project Developing a Solar-Powered Combustion Engine

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the here-comes-the-sun dept.

Power 144

cylonlover writes "OK, first things first – stop picturing a car with solar panels connected to its engine. What Missouri-based inventors Matt Bellue and Ben Cooper are working on is something a little different than that. They want to take an internal combustion engine, and run it on water and solar-heated oil instead of gasoline. That engine could then be hooked up to a generator, to provide clean electricity. While that may sound a little iffy to some, Bellue and Cooper have already built a small-scale prototype."

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On the oil/steam separator... (1)

maeka (518272) | about 2 years ago | (#42086743)

Separating oil and water which have been mixed at such a fine level doesn't seem the easiest. While I know it can be done, can it be done in such a manner to maintain any of the heat energy which remains? Or does one just accept that energy as lost?

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086783)

..could be used to preheat the water which is to be injected i suppose

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (2)

Gorobei (127755) | about 2 years ago | (#42087035)

seems stupid, though: we have good heat-exchangers that don't require mixing the two fluids. Just coiled metal pipes (add fins if needed) would do the trick.

We've been building liquid sodium/water exchangers for nuke plants for years. There is zero reason to mix the fluids and then add a separator (which is a real pain in the ass given the oil is in a closed cycle.)

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (3, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#42087325)

seems stupid, though: we have good heat-exchangers that don't require mixing the two fluids. Just coiled metal pipes (add fins if needed) would do the trick.

The point of mixing the fluids is that you cannot otherwise impart enough heat to flash boil the water.
Not to mention that it's really hard to do what you're suggesting inside the cylinder

There is zero reason to mix the fluids and then add a separator (which is a real pain in the ass given the oil is in a closed cycle.)

The whole point of their technique is that they create steam inside the strongest part of an engine.
As it turns out, oil and water will try to separate on their own, which makes this a less than complicated issue.

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#42087481)

The point of mixing the fluids is that you cannot otherwise impart enough heat to flash boil the water.

That begs the question, can you not otherwise impart enough heat to flash boil the water? Why not a big metallic thermal load, made out of recycled popcans?

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (1)

paiute (550198) | about 2 years ago | (#42087669)

The point of mixing the fluids is that you cannot otherwise impart enough heat to flash boil the water.

That begs the question, can you not otherwise impart enough heat to flash boil the water? Why not a big metallic thermal load, made out of recycled popcans?

That's not begging the question.

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#42087947)

That's not begging the question.

An assumption is being stated as a given... what, then, is?

Begging the question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42088273)

The point of mixing the fluids is that you cannot otherwise impart enough heat to flash boil the water.

That begs the question, can you not otherwise impart enough heat to flash boil the water? Why not a big metallic thermal load, made out of recycled popcans?

That's not begging the question.

That begs the question [merriam-webster.com] , how is the original statement not an example of the petitio principii fallacy [lander.edu] ?

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#42088781)

Not really. How can you make the transfer of heat more efficient between two liquids by separating them? Especially when one of them is being turned into a gas, which would act as an insulator between the separating surface and the rest of the liquid.

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (3, Insightful)

Gorobei (127755) | about 2 years ago | (#42087509)

seems stupid, though: we have good heat-exchangers that don't require mixing the two fluids. Just coiled metal pipes (add fins if needed) would do the trick.

The point of mixing the fluids is that you cannot otherwise impart enough heat to flash boil the water.
Not to mention that it's really hard to do what you're suggesting inside the cylinder

That is just not true. Look at a steam catapult, or a pressure cooker, or even a classic rail locomotive. You just need a boiler under some pressure.

There is zero reason to mix the fluids and then add a separator (which is a real pain in the ass given the oil is in a closed cycle.)

The whole point of their technique is that they create steam inside the strongest part of an engine.
As it turns out, oil and water will try to separate on their own, which makes this a less than complicated issue.

"Trying to separate" is a lot different from actually separating. Heat a pan of oil to 400 degrees in your kitchen, now dribble water drops onto the oil for a minute or two. Notice how greasy your kitchen tops are getting? Heat transfer == physical motion in liquids == oil in your steam.

How do you plan to separate the stream/oil droplet mixture? Do simple experiment: shake a pint of cooking oil and water together. How long did they take to separate back out? 1 hour to get to 95%? Now try it at high temperatures: you are talking days unless you have a serious refrigeration unit in your engine.

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42088097)

Since they have to condense the water back out to run it through the engine once again, presumably it shouldn't be that hard. At some point you'll get it all back into a reservoir of liquid water with oil mixed in. Skim the oil off the top and feed the engine with water pumped from the bottom.

dom

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (1)

Gorobei (127755) | about 2 years ago | (#42088233)

Since they have to condense the water back out to run it through the engine once again, presumably it shouldn't be that hard. At some point you'll get it all back into a reservoir of liquid water with oil mixed in. Skim the oil off the top and feed the engine with water pumped from the bottom.

dom

"Presumably?" Have you ever cooked in a kitchen or worked with machinery that has an oil/water interface?

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#42088663)

How do you plan to separate the stream/oil droplet mixture? Do simple experiment: shake a pint of cooking oil and water together. How long did they take to separate back out? 1 hour to get to 95%? Now try it at high temperatures: you are talking days unless you have a serious refrigeration unit in your engine.

Oil and water separation is a solved problem.

"How" depends on the volume of emulsion, the available space and power.
Maybe they'll use a centrifuge. Maybe electrostatic separation.
Maybe they'll heat the oil with a peltier and use the cool side as "a serious refrigeration unit".

I'm not an engineer and even if I was, TFA doesn't provide enough information to 100% answer your question.
But like I said, it's a solved problem.

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (1)

semi-extrinsic (1997002) | about 2 years ago | (#42088783)

You would probably use an electrocoalescer. It's very commonly used in the oil industry, where water and oil is mixed into an emulsion in the wellhead choke valve. (An electrocoalescer is a fancy name for a tank with an applied electric field, either AC or DC, of around 10-100 kV/m.)

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (1)

budgenator (254554) | about 2 years ago | (#42088363)

There is one, oil/steam mixtures are ferociously combustable, and would easily allow one to burn diesel or even used engine oil in an spark ignitioned internal combustion engine; but even that seems a little like a Rube Goldgerg machine to me. There are people who are working on converting the Detroit Diesel Series 71 [wikipedia.org] engines to steam operation, a two cycle diesel would seem fairly easy to convert.

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (2)

Turksarama (2666917) | about 2 years ago | (#42086913)

If you use a small amount of oil to flash a relatively large amount of water you would get better efficiency, but you'd need to heat the oil to higher temperatures which brings its own problems. Also separating oil and water is easy, seeing as they don't actually mix.

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (1)

maeka (518272) | about 2 years ago | (#42087231)

Also separating oil and water is easy, seeing as they don't actually mix.

The oil is assuredly atomized to increase surface area and heat transfer, seeing as the timing of such an engine depends on precise (and rapid) water phase change. Much like a diesel engine you're relying on very precise injection timing and predictably fast burning/expansion.

A oil/water mixture composed of such tiny droplets is not trivial to separate.

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (1)

gtbritishskull (1435843) | about 2 years ago | (#42087529)

But, how much separation do you really need? From RTFA, I don't think that having oil mixed with the injected water would cause any problems. It would decrease the efficiency, but I would imagine that you could get the oil concentration below 5% pretty easily. And, at those concentrations it seems that the effect on efficiency would probably be negligible.

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (1)

Dekker3D (989692) | about 2 years ago | (#42087199)

Only the water turns to steam.. Explosively. It'll be floating above the oil, one would think.

Re:On the oil/steam separator... (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#42087213)

Separating oil and water which have been mixed at such a fine level doesn't seem the easiest. While I know it can be done, can it be done in such a manner to maintain any of the heat energy which remains? Or does one just accept that energy as lost?

Wouldn't you just cool it below the vapor temperature of the oil and/or water then separate it as liquids? A lot of the will be lost, but not all. Some of the energy can be recaptured by preheating the liquid water and oil.

They're going to have to cool and return at least the water back to liquid state anyway before it can be injected again for the next cycle.

Well, it still takes oil... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086751)

So it's still a FAIL.

Also, it sounds incredibly inefficient. And like saying you chose to make the equivalent of a FAX machine that internally uses E-Mail, because some always-backwards fucktards simply can't get their incredibly rigid and small minds away from combusting fossil fuels.

Are these the people that made Einstein say "If only engineers would do research, we'd have perfectly functioning oil lamps."?

Re:Well, it still takes oil... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086875)

"an oil" =/= fissile fuel oil

It's a liquid with an extremely high boiling point, that happens to be chemically categorized as an oil. It's used to store heat. The same thing is done on an industrial scale with molten salts.

However, I see no reason why the oil and water need to come in direct contact.

Re:Well, it still takes oil... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42087133)

However, I see no reason why the oil and water need to come in direct contact.

Keeping them separated guarantees an efficiency loss in any thermal conduction layer that would be required.

As long as the oil is hydrophobic enough (if I remember hydrophobia is a consequence of subatomic particles being oriented close to the 108 angle of the protons in a water molecule; closer to 108 equals more hydrophobic) i think a simple agitation unit would suffice as a "condenser" of sorts for the oil.

Re:Well, it still takes oil... (1)

yacc143 (975862) | about 2 years ago | (#42087377)

It does not use the oil up.

It's not an internal combustion engine, dumbass! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086761)

It is in fact a steam engine, using solar-heated oil to flash water to steam right in the cylinder.

And since TFA can't be arsed to state a single reason why one might choose this over, say, a Stirling heat engine, I'm going to assume there's no good ones.

Re:It's not an internal combustion engine, dumbass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086831)

Wouldn't the power density be much higher than in a Stirling engine?

Re:It's not an internal combustion engine, dumbass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086897)

Why would it? That's not a claim they make, and I see no reason to suppose it's true.

Reinventing the steam engine (2)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 2 years ago | (#42086971)

Yes, they have reinvented the steam engine.
In this case, literally: it runs on stream. (As opposed to many more modern heat engines, which usually use other working fluids).

The innovation seems to be that they have separated the heat absorption from the expansion of the working fluid.

If the best they can do is 15%, it will not be competitive with photovoltaic, ever. This needs tracking and mirrors, and that kind of moving parts just can't beat the production efficiencies of silicon solar cells.

Re:Reinventing the steam engine (2)

Smidge204 (605297) | about 2 years ago | (#42087485)

The only reason this MIGHT compete with solar is the ability to store the thermal energy overnight. Storing heat (as molten salt or hot oil) is easier and less expensive than batteries to store electricity.

That said, this seems like an awfully inefficient way to go about it and there are already solar thermal plants of different varieties that are commercial-scale, more efficient and less Rube Goldberg-y. I can't see any sensible way to get the oil out of the cylinder without high pressure purge, and if there's that much pressure left it the cylinder then you're just wasting power. What's wrong with flash-steaming the water OUTSIDE the cylinder?
=Smidge=

Re:Reinventing the steam engine (1)

nschubach (922175) | about 2 years ago | (#42087925)

You can store solar panel energy with molten salt or hot oil as well...

Re:Reinventing the steam engine (3, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 2 years ago | (#42088457)

Not really. You could turn photovoltaic power into heat energy (with a resistor), and use it to heat up a molten salt, but the efficiency losses and the cost of turning this back into electrical power is absurd.

Re:Reinventing the steam engine (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 2 years ago | (#42087951)

According to TFA 15% is the same efficiency as photovoltaic but the cost of the system is supposed to be 1/3 of equiv photovoltaic.

Yes, but they're wrong [Reinventing the steam...] (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 2 years ago | (#42088455)

According to TFA 15% is the same efficiency as photovoltaic but the cost of the system is supposed to be 1/3 of equiv photovoltaic.

Yes, they said that, but they're wrong. No possible way it can get down to 1/3 the cost of photovoltaic panels. I frankly doubt if they can make it as low as twice times the cost of photovoltaic.

On a large enough scale, I think a Brayton engine might make it cheaper than photovoltaic, but part of that is because of the high efficiencies, and the other part the economy of scale of large turbines. I doubt a piston engine can be that cheap, not operating at these temperatures.

Maybe they're thinking about the photovoltaic cost of twenty years ago. PV has gone WAY down in the last few decades.

Photovoltaic cost is a rather fast moving target (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | about 2 years ago | (#42088499)

You really have to take into account potential reduction in costs for any technology meant to compete with photovoltaics (not saying this doesn't have that potential).

Re:It's not an internal combustion engine, dumbass (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | about 2 years ago | (#42087845)

Interesting that the OP got instantly modded down. Suppose the article was about a new computer language and the article described it as a compiler when it really was an interpreter. Bullshit would be called immediately. Same level of error, different tech.

Why not use a Stirling engine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086777)

I doubt that this will ever come close to the high efficiency of a Stirling engine...

Re:Why not use a Stirling engine? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086829)

From the indiegogo [indiegogo.com] campaign (yes, the summary neglects to mention this is a bloody crowdfunded uni project):

Efficiency: Both steam turbines and Stirling engines are known to be quite efficient, typically falling around the 40% efficiency range. We won’t know exactly where our HydroICE technology will fall until testing is complete, but we’ll be able to reach at least 15% efficiency with projections falling closer to 30%.

Manufacturing and cost: Both steam turbines and stirling engines are extremely precise machines and as a result, we see that reflected in the high price that it costs to manufacture and purchase one. This makes them economically feasible only for large industrial scale applications.

Yep, Stirling engines are too precise to be economically feasible, but similarly precise gasoline engines are so cheap that even with extra modifications they'll be feasible... right.

Re:Why not use a Stirling engine? (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42086947)

stirling engines are extremely precise machines

What, their fuel injectors? Old fashioned mechanical carburators?

Yeah I know the guy is trying to get at the wider temp fluctuations in cylinder and piston temp, unless you go uniflow which has whole nother kettle of fish, but its not really much of a problem.

See if you try to crank up the efficiency and power of a trad ICE, eventually you get all manner of predetonation (ping) and trouble keeping crankshaft loads low enough while not letting the valves float and it gets all technical very fast. With a stirling you just crank up the heat until you melt or deform the piston/cylinder. Its more easily understood so its easier to empathize so its "seems" harder, but actually ICE are way more difficult its just we can't talk in uneducated company about the actual challenges. Any moron can understand "it melted" so any moron thinks stirlings are more difficult because they can't even talk about ICE engine optimization.

Re:Why not use a Stirling engine? (2)

powerlinekid (442532) | about 2 years ago | (#42088771)

I don't understand... can you make a car analogy?

Re:Why not use a Stirling engine? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#42087017)

Yep, Stirling engines are too precise to be economically feasible,

I don't know about that. Stirling engines seem to be popular projects for people getting started with home machine shops. Their cost is a matter of production volume.

but similarly precise gasoline engines are so cheap

Right. Because they are high volume production items. But one must figure one's economics based upon the assumption that one will go into large scale production. Not scrounging a bunch of parts adapted from some other use. If this technology is to become viable, piston engines will be designed and built specifically for this purpose (or for Stirling engines) at a volume to keep production costs low. So in the final analysis, the engine costs will be based on the complexity and precision needed, which appear to be similar for piston engines.

Re:Why not use a Stirling engine? (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 2 years ago | (#42088073)

"But one must figure one's economics based upon the assumption that one will go into large scale production."

That creates a chicken and egg scenerio. Unless you have some massive VC capital backing you then you need to be able to produce units at reasonable prices in small volumes at first. Or else your technology will be overpriced, nobody will buy it, and you will never survive large enough to reach 'large scale production'.

There are dozens of companies that make this mistake every day. If you don't have a bankroll that can produce mass quantities from the get go and float you until you sell them, you need to sell to someone who can, or be able to turn a profit at low volume production.

Re:Why not use a Stirling engine? (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#42087583)

Modern day robotics make precision a non-issue. And with Stirling engines you can use more ceramics in the hot section since it's not exposed to explosive forces or crazy high RPMs like a gas turbine. Plus we can use them for refrigerator compressors without any specialized refrigerant. What they don't presently have is rapid throttle response, much like a regular steam engine, and to get a lot of power, they need to be very large, which is not an issue for stationary applications.

Re:Why not use a Stirling engine? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#42088459)

What they don't presently have is rapid throttle response, much like a regular steam engine

Which, frankly, would hardly matter in a hybrid car with electric traction and battery + supercap storage, would it?

Hot oil won't last long (2)

regular_guy (1979018) | about 2 years ago | (#42086787)

While the engine may ideally just vaporize the water with hot oil, the reactions involved would eventually degrade the oil. Additionally, the separations processes are often 50% of the whole system's energy requirements, I just wouldn't see the viability of such a system. Now a heat exchanger for hot oil/water vaporization would wake a lot more sense, but it seems they want to generate a funding buzz with an internal engine spin.

Re:Hot oil won't last long (1)

EETech1 (1179269) | about 2 years ago | (#42086955)

This could probably happen on the way back to the solar collector as the oil is heated back up, then you would just have to condense the steam back into water. Most of the steam would likely just exhaust on its own, but what's trapped in the oil would come out once it's reheated.

Cheers

Why bother with the oil? (1)

Just Brew It! (636086) | about 2 years ago | (#42086801)

It's not being burned, it's only being used as a heat carrier. Seems to me it would be more efficient to just heat the water directly, and use it in a steam turbine. What am I missing here?

Re:Why bother with the oil? (2)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about 2 years ago | (#42086857)

Because high pressure steam is much harder to manage than the hot oil. High pressure steam lines, boilers, etc. Hot oil is low pressure and can be pumped with a circulating pump.

Re:Why bother with the oil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086907)

Does the oil eliminate the high pressure steam? Sounds like the steam is still there.

Re:Why bother with the oil? (2)

MLBs (2637825) | about 2 years ago | (#42087415)

Does the oil eliminate the high pressure steam? Sounds like the steam is still there.

The high pressure steam is only inside the piston chamber. After expanding and pushing the piston, the pressure drops.

Re:Why bother with the oil? (1)

thereitis (2355426) | about 2 years ago | (#42086921)

Could they not just heat the 'combustion' chamber itself?

Re:Why bother with the oil? (1)

emt377 (610337) | about 2 years ago | (#42086933)

Could they not just heat the 'combustion' chamber itself?

This would probably give poor timing control over the vapor explosion.

Re:Why bother with the oil? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42088247)

I don't see why it would; you'd just time the water injection (like diesel).

Re:Why bother with the oil? (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42086861)

It's not being burned, it's only being used as a heat carrier. Seems to me it would be more efficient to just heat the water directly, and use it in a steam turbine. What am I missing here?

The hydraulics. I can't be bothered to crack open a steam table at this time of day, but a substantial sized tank of stored 500F water is going to be ridiculously thick walled and heavy... 500F oil can be more or less unpressurized.

Reading the article I'm not sure what "oil" they're using. Cheap canola oil isn't going to like 500F however asphalt isn't going to like being piped around at room temp.

The journalist articles don't detail it, but stereotypically there is a huge insulated front end tank being heated by panels so you can run the engine at midnight. Usually its a couple orders of magnitude cheaper to redesign the system to not require operation at midnight, but thats a higher level system failure.

Re:Why bother with the oil? (2)

swillden (191260) | about 2 years ago | (#42087189)

Usually its a couple orders of magnitude cheaper to redesign the system to not require operation at midnight, but thats a higher level system failure.

In the near term, for residential power production I think the best method is to use the grid for "storage". The system would need to be able to gracefully shut down and restart without human intervention, though. PV handles that very gracefully and naturally, this would have to be engineered for it.

Re:Why bother with the oil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086869)

To believe those behind this project, what you're missing is that steam generated in the "combustion chamber" of an "internal combustion engine" (as you note, there's no combustion) is safe, while steam generated in a boiler and passed through pipes is dangerous.

More cynically, one might say you're missing that the external-boiler steam engine already exists and has hundreds of years of refinement -- it's much harder to come up with a "revolutionary" improvement on it than to invent a slightly inferior steam engine. So the choice was obvious....

Re:Why bother with the oil? (1)

Turksarama (2666917) | about 2 years ago | (#42086889)

It's the flash heating of the water into steam in the cylinder which creates the pressure to drive the piston. Using oil as the heat carrier is simply how they've chosen to concentrate as much heat as possible into a small volume with high surface area as a liquid. The only other way to achieve this would be to heat the edges of the cylinder to much higher temperatures (as they're solid and have low surface area so they don't transfer heat as well) which would likely damage them and reduce efficiency.

I worried for a moment... (2)

CdBee (742846) | about 2 years ago | (#42086805)

... that Slashdot had been finally invaded by the 'run your ICE-powered device on water' fraudsters who are all over the car forums on the web now. Thankful to find its just a bad description of using steam expansion as part of a power stroke (BMW tested the same theory using steam generated or augmented by the engines cooling system a few years back, although it worked for them they couldnt get the costs of it to be viable)

For the record before anyone does start talking about vehicle water injection, it adds no power per se, all it does is increase implied octane ratings by adding better cooling and detonation control, exactly the same way a well-designed intercooler would but with the added risk that it steam-cleans the oil from the cylinder walls and probably shortens the engine life as a result. Not to mention the effect on the cat and tailpipe from the increased moisture in the exhaust

Re:I worried for a moment... (1)

bosef1 (208943) | about 2 years ago | (#42087413)

I thought I had seen some proposals for water injection where the water was only injected during full-power operation, where it would help keep the combustion chamber cool, and boiling the water would put more combustion energy into mechanical work instead of just heat. I agree that using it full-time would have its drawbacks.

Re:I worried for a moment... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#42087475)

It's somewhat commonly used with diesels, you inject it only when exhaust gas temperatures are high. its function is to reduce temperatures but it also gives you a power boost under maximum load conditions because the water changes state -- which is why it's so effective at removing heat. you can build a poor man's system with a pump and nozzles from AEM for about three hundred bucks, and a set-point controller like the Auber Instruments 1812, 1813 etc for about five bucks. They sell the controllers as 1/8 DIN digital gauges (boost, EGT, etc) optionally coupled with a sensor, but they also have a relay switch in them, and a 5V output to run a buzzer or a light or what have you. You can set the on and off points. Fancy water injection systems may have multiple or variable nozzles and may even read the "throttle" position (diesels don't have throttles) to help control water output. It is also common to inject a water/methanol mix which is supposed to add more power, but I don't know too much about that.

Ancient tech (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 2 years ago | (#42088357)

Water injection dates back to the 1920s. It was used because the technology of the day could not use high compression ratios without detonation. Modern technology overcomes detonation by attention to fuel, gas flow, thermal design and ignition timing. Water injection is obsolete.

Re:I worried for a moment... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#42087631)

For the record before anyone does start talking about vehicle water injection, it adds no power per se...

In the early days, it was used in jet engines to increase thrust due to the increased expansion value and mass of the discharged exhaust.

Re:I worried for a moment... (1)

CdBee (742846) | about 2 years ago | (#42087737)

I should have said that I meant automobile use - and specifically in reciprocating cylinder engines. The use of water injection on both piston and jet engines has proven benefits, however water injection kit is often sold nowadays under dishonest premises such as calling it 'water fuelling' and claiming notable reductions in petrol or diesel consumption. If it was marketed as a protective measure to prevent overheating I'd have fewer objections to the tactic, despite my reservations about retrofitting such kit to engines not designed for it.

Not Combustion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086811)

I just read TFA, and what is described is in no way a combustion engine. Nothing is combusted.
What it actually is, is a concentrating solar thermal piston engine, using steam as the working medium and oil as a heat transfer medium.
It is a direct competitor to concentrating solar stirling engines, and does not seem particularly better than them, except for an unsubstantiated claim of being cheaper.

Re:Not Combustion (2, Informative)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42086895)

I just read TFA, and what is described is in no way a combustion engine. Nothing is combusted.

They seem to carefully avoid mentioning it, but most oils when preheated to 700 degrees F (holy cow) and atomized in air will burn pretty well. Probably the water addition is to prevent the cylinder walls from melting, or more likely prevent them from looking like a well seasoned cast iron pan (which would have serious issues WRT cylinder rings)

diesel's autoignition point (not flash point, you're already mechanically atomizing the vapor) is only like 400 degrees F.

diesel has a somewhat lower autoignition point than gasoline, but gasoline has a much lower flash point than diesel, weird but true.

Re:Not Combustion (1)

swillden (191260) | about 2 years ago | (#42087049)

I just read TFA, and what is described is in no way a combustion engine. Nothing is combusted.

They seem to carefully avoid mentioning it, but most oils when preheated to 700 degrees F (holy cow) and atomized in air will burn pretty well.

Since they plan to recover and reuse all of the oil, they must be assuming a type of oil that won't burn at the temperatures used. The GP is right: according to the article there's no combustion in the process. The design is an unusual sort of steam engine.

Of course, this raises the question of why it's better than a more traditional solar-powered steam engine. It clearly avoids the need to deal with high-pressure steam anywhere except in the "combustion" chamber, and if it can work well in slightly modified ICE designs then we already have a lot of factories cranking out the base platform. I have to think that it's less efficient than a true multi-stage steam engine, though. We learned how to make those things really efficient many decades ago.

Re:Not Combustion (3, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#42087277)

They seem to carefully avoid mentioning it, but most oils when preheated to 700 degrees F (holy cow) and atomized in air will burn pretty well. Probably the water addition is to prevent the cylinder walls from melting, or more likely prevent them from looking like a well seasoned cast iron pan (which would have serious issues WRT cylinder rings)

I don't think you read the article carefully enough.
1. hot oil + water = instant steam
2. steam pushes the piston down
3. the oil + steam get recycled
4. GO TO 1

The only input is solar energy to heat the oil.
The rest of the system works on a closed loop.

Re:Not Combustion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42087993)

No, the water is injected so that it turns into steam and drives the expansion cycle.

There is a FAQ here: (4, Informative)

Tapewolf (1639955) | about 2 years ago | (#42086827)

The last comment at the bottom of the article is a post by one of the project team, linking to a FAQ written in response to the comments.

http://hydroice.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com]

Re:There is a FAQ here: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42087089)

It's so professional it's on Wordpress!

Came here to say "No Combustion" (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | about 2 years ago | (#42086833)

But I see it's already covered. Cute idea but like programming languages, there's thousands of cute engine designes that aren't practical for widespread use.

Ooh! Ooh! I have an improvement suggestion! (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about 2 years ago | (#42086843)

Instead of oil use liquid sodium! It would be way more efficient!

Re:Ooh! Ooh! I have an improvement suggestion! (2)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | about 2 years ago | (#42086979)

I'd pay money to see the first run.

Re:Ooh! Ooh! I have an improvement suggestion! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42087445)

From a distance...

Re:Ooh! Ooh! I have an improvement suggestion! (1)

Goedendag (2618275) | about 2 years ago | (#42087031)

Or replace the water with potatoes and get French fries at the same time.

Where is the "Combustion"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086899)

This is just a solar powered steam engine...the oil serves no purpose.

Re:Where is the "Combustion"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42087225)

While you're right to say that there is no combustion, you're wrong to say that the oil serves no purpose. It transports the heat to the "combustion" chamber.

gn4a (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42086919)

conversation and over the same antibacterial soap. to the transmissiOn Are you a NIGGER all along. *BSD poor prioriti0es, the last night of

Could use any form of heat; combustion isn't bad (2)

caseih (160668) | about 2 years ago | (#42086977)

Most people think of "solar" or "wind" as renewable, but in fact, burning straw pellets could also work very well as a heat source and be carbon neutral (renewable). The nice thing about an engine like this is that any form of heat could drive it. Separating combustion from from the pressures in the engine also will eliminate NOx and other pollutants. So even if the solar part doesn't work out (or at night), this idea still has potential for carbon-neutral energy from just about any heat source that can heat up the oil.

Re:Could use any form of heat; combustion isn't ba (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42088377)

Unfortunately biomass takes up land and is weather dependent. One bad year and it's energy shortages all around.

And what does "Separating combustion from from the pressures in the engine also will eliminate NOx and other pollutants." even mean? NOx creation is temperature dependent. Other pollutants would be fuel dependent.

Article Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42087029)

oil is heated by solar collectors then injected into the cylinder along with a few drops of water. the water is converted to steam by the hot oil. the steam pressure drives the piston down. the oil and steam exit through an exhaust port and are recycled. pretty cool.

my first first-post!

why not stirling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42087065)

They say a Stirling engine is more expensive because of tighter tolerances than this device, but I don't see why, plenty of people have built their own. Seems to me it's just a matter of economies of scale. Yes you can get cheap two stroke engines atm, because they are already made in the millions. I'm sure it's cheaper to use an existing engine for your demo than building your own from scratch. However, if this use actually become popular and you start building them in thousands of units, beats me why you'd build this over the twice as efficient Stirling engine.

Cute idea, but... (4, Interesting)

Phydeaux314 (866996) | about 2 years ago | (#42087103)

...I see a few issues, some fixable, some less so.

First, while removing the boiler from the whole "steam plant" equation really does help the safety side of things, you have to be VERY VERY SURE that your separator removes ALL the water from your exhaust. Why? Because if you have even a tiny bit of water in your oil tank, and your heat it to 700F, it's going to boil and expand... and suddenly your low-pressure oil reservoir systems just turned into a really weak boiler full of oil that's hot enough to burst into flames. Instead of venting superheated invisible steam that can strip flesh from bones in seconds, you're going to be spurting oil around at temperatures that cause spontaneous combustion when meeting atmospheric oxygen. Not sure if that's really a step up.

Second, while oil and water don't mix, they do tend to form a really annoying to work with mayonnaise-like suspension of oil globules in water when mixed together really well. This takes a long time - or a lot of energy - to completely split apart.

Third, in addition to the previous problems with separating mayonnaise, heat dissipation will be an issue. Internal combustion engines carry a LOT of their waste heat away with exhaust, but in a closed-loop system like the one they're proposing here you need to remove the 85% of the energy you don't convert into work. Steamboats traditionally do this with a condenser that sits in the water, but if you're not near a large body of water, well... let's just say your condensing apparatus is going to be a huge, complicated, and difficult to work with because even if you don't have a high-pressure steam BOILER you're still going to have a high-pressure steam CONDENSER.

You could, of course, run the oil at a cooler temperature... but that drastically cuts back on your efficiency, because your power depends on having a lot of pressure inside the cylinder, and that pressure comes from the steam, and the pressure of the steam depends on the temperature... well, you get the idea. Basic thermodynamics.

So anyway. It's a cute idea, but unless they've got some really amazing tricks to solve the glaring technical fiddly parts I don't think it's going to get very far. I hope I'm wrong... but I don't think I am.

Re:Cute idea, but... (1)

swillden (191260) | about 2 years ago | (#42087389)

in a closed-loop system like the one they're proposing here you need to remove the 85% of the energy you don't convert into work

Why? It seems to me that in a system like this one the ideal temperature for the injected water would be just below the boiling point. Retaining heat in the water would reduce the amount of energy you need to inject in the form of hot oil for the same power stroke. The ratio and amount of oil and water to be injected will be highly dependent upon the temperatures of both, but with a computerized control system that doesn't seem like it would be a problem.

Re:Cute idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42087759)

Technical problems aside, there is no way the powers that be in the US will let any technology like this come to production. Our congress critters are heavily invested in OIL. They will only invest in clean energy that will certainly fail. They may invest research money into this, but only to find a way to make it fail. It has happened time and time again.

Re:Cute idea, but... (1)

sco08y (615665) | about 2 years ago | (#42088241)

Technical problems aside, there is no way the powers that be in the US will let any technology like this come to production. Our congress critters are heavily invested in OIL. They will only invest in clean energy that will certainly fail. They may invest research money into this, but only to find a way to make it fail. It has happened time and time again.

Except that natural gas is rapidly becoming a dominant player in the US, so you're completely full of shit.

Q:Water / Oil seperation A:Distilation (1)

Filter (6719) | about 2 years ago | (#42088019)

I should think the water won't last long in the oil as its being heated to 700 degrees, the watter should boill off and be recoverable with a condensor. This is assuming that you would want a closed circuit for the water.

If the plant isn't efficient as per "energy out" / "energy in" it could still be efficient as per "total energy out lifetime" / "total cost in dollars lifetime".

Re:Cute idea, but... (1)

dasunt (249686) | about 2 years ago | (#42088815)

When I first read this, I thought it was heating the engine block and then injecting water that flashes to stream, driving the power stroke. (So basically a two cycle engine - when the piston is at the top of the cylinder, water is injected, it flashes to steam, that drives the piston down, and when the piston comes back up on the second stroke, an exhaust valve allows the steam to escape. The exhaust valve closes at the top of the stroke, and the process is repeated.

That would "consume" water, but would avoid the messy oil/water extraction step. (It's basically a 6 stroke Crowler engine [wikipedia.org] missing the first four strokes.)

This is a lot more complicated, and the vagueness of the claims makes me think they do not have a working prototype. They are making vague claims of efficiency as well (15%+ efficiency).

I think I'll come and sit in the skeptic's corner with you.

IndieGogo Fundraising Campaign (1)

swillden (191260) | about 2 years ago | (#42087109)

In case anyone thinks this is interesting enough to throw money at it, I got this link from the FAQ page: http://www.indiegogo.com/hydroice [indiegogo.com] .

I thought it was interesting enough to throw it a few bucks. Could be snake oil, but it could also be really cool.

the fine print (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42087111)

FTFA: "While it isn’t clear if they’ve actually had the thing running yet..."

No combustion involved (1, Interesting)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 2 years ago | (#42087173)

This is not a combustion engine, at all. It's an "insert water with hot oil, use generated steam to drive engine, separate back oil and water to reuse" engine.

The potential efficiency is interesting, and the reduction of generated hydrocarbons compared to a normal motor of the awkwardness of creating and handling lead-acid batteries or other awkward electrical energy storage is also interesting. The difficulty of doing reliable water and oil separation for long periods, at low cost and with low power cost, is an interesting one.

Wrong internal combustion error to use (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 2 years ago | (#42087237)

A quick review of the Wankel engine also shows that this technology might be better applied there. The engine destroying accidental misfires known to some Wankel designes would not occur, and the problems handling the spark plug or with lubrication also would not apply.

Questions (1)

mattr (78516) | about 2 years ago | (#42087241)

Interesting if it works.
- How hot is this engine going to get (safety)?
- Insulation? (as he says)
- Capture of waste heat? Something like this [transpacenergy.com] ?
- How is solar energy transferred to oil? With parabolic trough [wikipedia.org] ?
- Energy loss due to vibration of one piston?
- Breakdown of oil?
- Any limit to length of pipe running through collector?

Discount UGG Boots sale (-1, Offtopic)

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Been done already and better (1)

nojayuk (567177) | about 2 years ago | (#42087501)

The Solar Energy Generating Systems power plants in the Mojave Desert have been using parabolic mirrors to generate electricity via solar heat for nearly 30 years now, using oil as the heat transfer fluid.

"The sunlight bounces off the mirrors and is directed to a central tube filled with synthetic oil, which heats to over 400 ÂC (750 ÂF). The reflected light focused at the central tube is 71 to 80 times more intense than the ordinary sunlight. The synthetic oil transfers its heat to water, which boils and drives the Rankine cycle steam turbine, thereby generating electricity. Synthetic oil is used to carry the heat (instead of water) to keep the pressure within manageable parameters." From the Wikipedia article on the SEGS operation.

Re:Been done already and better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42088415)

And yet, our streets are not yet filled with plants like these. Why not?

Because they're too expensive, and even if they weren't, the high pressure steam systems are not viable for non-industrial circumstances. The whole point of this engine is to generate electricity from solar power in an affordable fashion. Because the steam is only at high pressure inside the cylinder, it avoids all the expense associated with external steam generation.

dom

Re:Been done already and better (1)

nojayuk (567177) | about 2 years ago | (#42088503)

The heat collector system used in the SEGS plant isn't high-pressure. The oil used in the collector pipes never boils so it is only at a few atmospheres pressure, just enough to keep it circulating. The 400 deg C oil passes through a heat exchanger in central locations at each collector "farm" to produce steam that drives a turbine and generates electricity. This vastly simplifies the piping structure and keeps costs down while maintaining decent efficiency in terms of heat capture versus the amount of electricity generated. The weird hybrid the ICE guys have come up with looks to be a lot more complicated for lower resulting efficiency and that's not going to make it cheap to build or run.

The SEGS system isn't very cost-effective (it costs about 14 cents/kWh according to the Wikipedia article on it) either but that's simply because there's a lot of hardware and it doesn't produce much saleable electricity to pay back the construction loans and fund the maintenance budget, replace broken mirrors etc.

Stored Heat Engines Aren't Going in Your Car! (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 2 years ago | (#42087505)

This format of a heat engine isn't "going" anywhere as it would work only on a stationary position where the sun loading could be high with steerable mirrors. You could use molten oil, water or any material you chose to act as a heat source for a heat expansion engine.

For mobile uses, it all comes down to kilocalories stored per kilogram. This solution "won't go anywhere" mobile.

Margarine powered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42087625)

I, for one, salute our margarine powered motors. It oozes, it poofs and it provides for my sanwiches from the behind.

who cares about the efficiency? (1)

fikx (704101) | about 2 years ago | (#42087913)

At this stage in development, efficiency isn't a big deal , unless it can be proven early on that it will always be too horrible compared to alternatives...and that only counts if there are alternatives.
What is interesting/important is it's potential as (pointed out lots of times in the comments) a steam engine that avoids big boilers and has the same kick as an ICE since it uses the same mechanical layout. Any other heat-driven engines that can do the same? same kick, same overhead?
reading comments seems to say no so far: Stirling engines don't have the variable torque output for use in cars. Steam boilers are too heavy and involve piping steam around the system (dangerous and complex). Even converting the sunlight directly to electricity runs into storage problems (batteries aren't big enough yet) . I've seen come comments that heated oil may actually be a good way to store solar energy...not sure if it beats batteries, but worth a look.
This is another tool in the toolbox if it works. Is there anything that says this won't?

Tracking??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42088193)

The WTF for me is how one could produce an aerodynamically stable parabolic collection mirror that would track the sun while perched on a moving and vibrating vehicle. It would be like grampa with his shaking hands trying to get smoke from a leaf with a magnifying glass.

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