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Replacing Internal Combustion Engines

While this spacey-looking disk will not allow your car to time-travel, it might replace its internal combustion engine

Here’s a new approach to decreasing the environmental impact of cars: a new auto motor could make them 20 percent lighter and reduce emissions by 90 percent.

Michigan researchers have built a prototype of a disk-shaped shock wave generator that could replace the current internal combustion engine in cars. The generator is about the size of a saucepan and does not need a transmission, cooling system, or emissions regulation fluid, which would reduce the weight of a vehicle by 1,000 pounds.

The current prototype (not a full-scale model) consists of a rotor carved with wave-like channels. Fuel and air enter through central inlets and the rotor spins to block their exit through a separate outlet. The build-up of pressure generates a shock wave, compressing the fuel mixture. After ignition, the rotor keeps spinning, the outlet opens again to let the hot gases escape.

The generator would use about 60 percent of fuel for propulsion, which is a dramatic improvement over typical car engines, which only use 15 percent of fuel for forward movement.

Michigan State University recently showed off the new motor prototype at a meeting with the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency and received a $2.5 million ARPA-E grant to develop the technology. The research team plans to have a car-size engine working by the end of the year, and hopes to eventually market it to makers of hybrid vehicles.

Watch Professor Norbert Mueller of the MSU Department of Mechanical Engineering discuss the wave disc generator:

Images: Michigan State University

12 Responses to “Replacing Internal Combustion Engines”

  1. Congratulations! a real case of innovation.

  2. Is it available for manufacturing outside US?

  3. Is it not just a high bread centrifical compresser?

  4. Please don’t let this be bought up by oil companies and then buried so that it can’t be further developed…the world needs this

  5. 3 years? Why? What are you waiting for? Make the dang thing already! I’m tired of feeling like I should be waving the Saudi flag every time I start my engine!(You should get one free with every fill up!)
    Make the design ‘open source’ and let folks make their own if you must. But don’t sit on it for 3 years.

  6. In addition to the above whiny rant… Good job by the way.

  7. @David McWhorter

    Companies don’t buy up engine designs and bury them. That is just a conspiracy theory. The patents would still exist (the patent itself must be available in order to prove something is patented) and anyone who wants could look it up.

    In short, what you fear is impossible.

  8. Today in China, nuclear/electric bullet train networks with nuclear/electric powered infrastructures are a reality. They will soon be powered by Thorium fueled nuclear reactors, These networks are being ‘Daisy Chained’ from Europe’s eastern boundaries to China’s south seas, up through Siberia, over to Turkmenistan and further, spawning a huge Asian Empire. China has obviated the use of any form of gasoline consuming engines, and will soon switch to diesel/hybrids, then battery/electrics for short-hop transportation, relying on rail for all else. Oil supplies, the source of gasoline, diesel fuel, are dwindling, increasing in price, forced upwards by shortages, and increasing demand, mostly from a growing Asian market. America will do much better by adapting to Chinese bullet train networks in the near future, as oil reserves become scarce, oil prices skyrocket. This engine, a stop-gap device at best, before the nuclear/electric take-over, will be soundly thrashed in America, by the same people who destroyed the EV-1 (Google, torrent, the documentary, “Who Stole The Electric Car” for a lesson on corporate power in America) by the same people who smeared the Euro-Diesel engines – a full 40% more efficient than gasoline engines – still not adapted in an America facing astoundingly high gasoline prices. Stubbornly entrenched in its own tradition, its own mythologies, America will drive 1920’s styled radial engine knock-off Harley Davidson’s, smoke pot, drink beer, and BBQ steaks til the last remnants of their society die in a foreign battlefield, fighting a WWII style battle! Even after America’s horrendous loss on the World’s economic battlefield to China these past decades, America’s culture remains fixed, permanent and lost in time to the 21st century. In simpler terms, if this engine does not emit a throaty bass roar, squeal rear wheel driven tires, go stop-light to stop-light faster, better than ever before, it will not sell in the American popular culture. Just ask Honda, with their ultra-modern flat 6 cylinder motorcycle!

  9. if their working prototype is the same geometry as the display I would say they have a while considering those blades are still perpendicular to the surface and could do for some sweet efficiencies from axially curved blades but that requires a 4D CAM mill. And also considering how long axial and radial compressors/turbines have been around for and how much energy is still devoted to shaving inefficiencies. I wonder how stable it is cause rotating shock waves sounds pretty tricky. It’s sweet cause its along the same lines of the wankel engine with conserving angular momentum rather than having a piston constantly accelerating back and forth in standard IC engines.

    @ ipio: apart from your hilarious spelling errors, it’s not just a hybrid centrifugal compressor more of a hybrid centrifugal jet engine with crazy compressibility effects since it compresses, ignites it with shock waves, then expands the exhaust.

  10. looks like it might work

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