Researchers have built an engine that does away with pistons, crankshafts and valves. Heck, cars equipped with it wouldn't even need a transmission either.
But what gives the new motor an aura of potentially being truly revolutionary is that it utilizes shock wave technology, which takes fuel efficiency to a whole other level. While cars engine use about 15 percent of available fuel for propulsion, the Wave Disk Generator harnesses an impressive 60 percent. Such a vast improvement can translate to a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions and a driving range of over 500 miles.
Developed by scientists at Michigan State University, the prototype may someday replace the internal combustion engine if it ever makes it to market. Compared to the familiar, but clunky 1,000-pound workhorse under the hood, the generator is about the the size of a cooking pot. And since the engine enables cars to operate sans transmission systems, cooling systems, emissions regulation or fluids, manufacturers can produce electric cars that are up to 30 percent lighter and require far less maintenance.
So how does it work? As fuel and air enter the chamber through central inlets, the wave-shaped rotor spins to trap the mixture inside. This causes pressure to build up to the point that it generates a shock wave, which compresses the mixture. Once ignited, the outlet opens, releasing a burst of hot exhaust gases that keeps the rotor blades spinning to generate electricity.
MSU, which unveiled the generator at the recent Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) conference, was awarded 2.5 millions dollars by the agency to further develop the technology. The next step for researchers is to scale the current model up to a larger 25-kilowatt prototype by the end of this year.
Here's a video that explains the technology:
(via New Scientist)
Photo: Michigan State University
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