Michigan State University researchers presented a prototype propulsion system that could completely replace the internal combustion engine in vehicles. The design, called a shock wave generator, does away with the crankshafts, pistons and valves in favor of a rotating round disc with wavy grooves.
This prototype uses 60% of the fuel for motion, compared with standard engines which only use 15% of the fuel for motion. Add to this the fact that it would reduce the weight of vehicles by up to 20% by removing the transmission and cooling system and you get one hell of a fuel efficient vehicle.
To read a description about how this thing works, hit the break.
New Scientist describes the process like this:
As the rotor spins, the channels allow an air-fuel mixture to enter via central inlet ports. The mixture would escape through the outlet ports in the walls of the surrounding chamber, but by now the rotor has turned to a position where the channels are not pointing at the outlets.
The resulting sudden build-up of pressure in the chamber generates a shock wave that travels inwards, compressing the air-fuel mixture as it does so. Just before the wave reaches the central inlet ports, these too are shut off by the turning of the rotor.
The compressed mixture is then ignited. By this time the rotor's channels are pointing towards the outlet ports again, releasing the hot exhaust. As the gas escapes at high speed, it pushes against the blade-like ridges inside the rotor, keeping it spinning and generating electricity.
The US Department of Energy was so impressed by the design that they gave MSU a $2.5 million grant to develop the process further. They also hope to be able to develop a larger version, possibly for power generation.
So, what do you think about this technology? Is it something you would be interested in using in your own vehicle? Let us know in the comments.