Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Auto Engine of the Future?

Why not make it a condition for the Big Three to have to invest a certain percentage of their income to ideas such as these which show real promise and are already set for testing?
Brickley Engine, The


The auto industry worldwide is scrambling for ways to make cars consume less gas, but mostly it pursues the same few concepts — like making cars lighter and smaller, using alternative fuels or creating hybrid designs that use electricity. Mike Brickley has another idea: why not rethink the internal-combustion engine itself?

Five years ago, Brickley, a self-taught “engine inventor” in Austin, Tex., decided to give it a try. He realized that one of the biggest drags on engine efficiency is friction: whenever two parts interact with each other, they generate heat and drain energy out of the system. So he began designing a new type of engine that reduced friction by doing away with several traditional parts. In the Brickley Engine — as he calls it — there are no piston skirts and several fewer crankshaft and crankpin bearings.

Thomas Porostocky

What’s more, the cylinders are connected through a pinned joint that rotates a comparatively small amount. The resulting device has a curious, flattened appearance: two sets of pistons face away from each other and punch in opposite directions, joining in the center to drive the engine’s shaft.

This configuration produces 35 percent less friction than a regular engine. Brickley projects that this would give the engine up to 20 percent better mileage than a regular car.

If you were to burn diesel fuel in the Brickley Engine, it would use almost 50 percent less fuel than a normal gas-powered engine, with greatly reduced emissions. “It’ll work in anything that burns fuel — trains, tractors, automobiles, you name it,” he says.

A nation of Brickley-equipped vehicles could satisfy the Kyoto Protocol’s demands for greenhouse-gas reduction several years in advance.

Brickley received a patent for the engine last year and this year began working on a prototype to place in a compact car — to prove that his design performs as well as his calculations predict

But one big question remains: Can Detroit really embrace such a weird new engine — especially when the Big Three are collapsing? “It’s not great timing,” Brickley admits. In the quest for fuel efficiency, the real engineering challenges may not be physics but politics.

Source: Year in Ideas 2008

No comments: