MSU researchers create a new engine prototype (w/ video)

Mar 17, 2011 by Katie Gatto weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at Michigan State University have built a prototype, based on the research first released in 2009, of the Wave Disk Generator -- an engine that does not have pistons, crankshafts or valves.

This new model, which does away with the internal combustion of the past, has the potential to reduce auto emissions up to 90 percent, when compared to the current emissions level. This is because the engine uses roughly 60 percent of its fuel for propulsion, when you compare this to the typical cars engine that uses only 15 percent of fuel for propulsion, we can see how the increase is possible.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The new engine prototype is built with a disc-shaped shock wave generator that is about the size of a sauce pan, and will require no transmission system, cooling system, emissions regulation or fluids, which means that you will end up not only doing something good for the planet, but you will end up with less in maintenance costs, if this new prototype ever comes to the market.

The engine works like this: a rotor, with a wave-like pattern carved into channels. The fuel and air enter and mix through the central inlets. The rotor then spins, blocking the exit of gasses. As the pressure builds it will generate a shock wave that will compress the mixture. Once it is ignited an outlet opens to let the hot gases escape, and your car can move as usual.

The engine prototype was shown off by Norbert Müller and other colleagues at Michigan State University at a meeting with the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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User comments : 38

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GSwift7
3 / 5 (4) Mar 17, 2011
I really love the ARPAe concept. It's worked for the DoD quite well.

Does anybody know anything about this Wave Disk Generator technology? I can't find ANY technical details about it. If they really can get this thing to work as advertised, it would be a Nobel Prize candidate for sure.
GSwift7
3 / 5 (4) Mar 17, 2011
The following is from an article I found on NextBigFuture.com

Wave Disk Generator Consumer Benefits:

Full-size vehicles with 500-mile driving range
Compressed natural gas, hydrogen, gas or renewable fuels
Elimination foreign oil dependence
30% lower vehicle costs
90% less CO2 emissions
Refplusten
Mar 17, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
hrlyboy1
2 / 5 (12) Mar 17, 2011
This technology will surely be quashed by the big oil companies and the machinists unions.
Plankton333
4.3 / 5 (3) Mar 17, 2011
In the video clip he mentioned different kinds of fuels, everything from hydrogen to gasoline. I wonder what the efficiencies are for these. Surely, it must be more efficient to burn one than the other. Also, how much energy is consumed in the compressing of the air. Mind you, this doesn't take away from the beauty of the idea!
Babble
3.3 / 5 (3) Mar 17, 2011
This new engine design sounds good but I would like to call attention to three companies who already have multi-fuel new engine designs. Its easier to just give their ticker symbols.
Turbine Truck Engines TTEG, Axial Vector AVECD and Cyclone Power CYPW. The first tow have only had Chinese interest which shows that American Mfg. have the not invented here attitude. I suspect MSU will find the same thing. The US won't invest in anything beyond tweaks to what they have now.
teledyn
4.3 / 5 (4) Mar 17, 2011
he never actually shows it working. isn't that odd? not even just as a generator, all we see is him twirling the shaft on a block of metal.
rinardman
2.9 / 5 (7) Mar 17, 2011
It appears this information is from 2009, and the engineer says they hope to have a working vehicle in three years, which would be 2011. I did a search, but couldn't find any current information about the vehicle. Why not do a report on the current status of this new engine technology, not something from three years ago?

*
pubwvj
not rated yet Mar 17, 2011
In many ways this looks like a backwards disk compressor which is used in modern refrigeration.
fmfbrestel
4.5 / 5 (6) Mar 17, 2011
Rinardman: wait, so 2009+3=2011? And the basic research was done in 2009, the prototype was just now built. So not only can you not handle basic arithmetic, but you don't seem to be able to read either.

It is interesting, but you can achieve similar results by using a conventional rotary engine. Besides, there is no reason to have an engine constantly running to power your electric car, you will never have a gas engine produce electricity cheaper then the grid, so you only need it to extend range when a recharge is not possible/impractical.
wealthychef
5 / 5 (2) Mar 17, 2011
Wow, "less than 3 years from today!" Bold words. How refreshing.
Parsec
3.8 / 5 (6) Mar 17, 2011
This looks sorta kinda like a Wankel rotary engine first commercialized in the mid 1970's. In fact, I myself purchased and drove one. It was quite cool except for its tendency to make sounds like a shotgun going off when you let off on the drive pedal.

But I digress...

The real killer for this engine was transferring the energy to the wheels. Mazda simply couldn't make seals that had a long enough lifetime. I am curious how the seals that shut the flow of gas, and contain the energy of the shock-wave will function, and if these issues will be the deal killer, as they were for the ill-fated Wankel.

MorituriMax
5 / 5 (7) Mar 17, 2011
This technology will surely be quashed by the big oil companies and the machinists unions.

God, give it a rest already with the aluminum foil conspiracy theories. If anything, the big oil companies and machinist unions will be selling us this technology once we run out of oil.

That's like saying, "That neat new thing the internet, oh the big telecoms will squash it." Now they sell us our internet connections and build and maintain the server farms and fiber/cable networks.
ekim
5 / 5 (2) Mar 17, 2011
Looks like a compressed jet engine. It seems to have the same physics of using a fan to compress an air/fuel mixture until ignition. The military would love this technology.
EWH
5 / 5 (3) Mar 17, 2011
There is an article that touches on this in the Feb. Popular Mechanics: "Power Broker Funding Energy Revolution"
The P.M. author views a live (fueled on test-stand) demonstration of the prototype.

Googling "norbert müller michigan state university" gives some more information.
soulman
4.4 / 5 (5) Mar 17, 2011
This looks sorta kinda like a Wankel rotary engine first commercialized in the mid 1970's. ... The real killer for this engine was transferring the energy to the wheels.

I too was wondering about the similarity to the Wankel engine. They're a lot more durable these days, but they still have the problem of high oil consumption, low torque and, ironically, lower fuel economy. But they sure can rev their heads off!

Also, the quote from the article is disingenuous:
This is because the engine uses roughly 60 percent of its fuel for propulsion, when you compare this to the typical cars engine that uses only 15 percent of fuel for propulsion

Modern IC engines achieve efficiencies in the mid thirties, if not higher and diesels do even better.
apex01
1.5 / 5 (2) Mar 18, 2011
so what about fuel cells?
Party_Bus_Dc
2 / 5 (2) Mar 18, 2011
Here is a similar story

Michigan State University researchers have received a $2.5 million federal stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a prototype new engine and generator technology that can dramatically improve efficiencies and reduce costs of electric hybrid vehicles.

The project has the potential to increase automotive fuel efficiency by five times compared to internal combustion engine cars on the road today while reducing costs by 30 percent. About the size of a large cooking pot, the novel, hyper-efficient engine could replace current engine/generator technologies for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
syhprum
3 / 5 (6) Mar 18, 2011
People have been designing engines like this since the early 1900's but they all have the ssme problems, poor expansion ratio, problems with seals, problems with oil consumption and deposit build up.
current IC engines are the result of 150 years dvelopment and will never be replaced by ecentric new designs.
Jim1138
4 / 5 (3) Mar 18, 2011
60% efficiency? That is significantly better then the highest efficiency gas turbine / co-generation power plant. I smell a scam.

Mayday
5 / 5 (2) Mar 18, 2011
Wow, not much information for such grand claims, ey? I'd like to know about its torque; can an open compression system stand up to being attached to real road wheels and acceleration demands? Then there is oil consumption and longevity. And no coolant? They really do need to explain that one. Turbine engines don't need coolant, but you're left with exhaust that will melt the asphalt. Finally, just the basic good old-fashioned things like horsepower, scalability and sound. No running vehicle prototype(not even a golf cart) is a very bad sign. I think I've gotta call fake. :-(
jamesrm
5 / 5 (3) Mar 18, 2011
Should have been headined as:
pointless handwaving of nonfuntional mockup looking for investment/startup funds video, no real story here.

Physorg, I want the bandwidth I wasted on that clip back.

rgds
jms
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Mar 18, 2011
To Mayday:

The prototype is supposedly going to be around 25 kW, which equates to about 30 horsepower. The only way to use that in a car is for charging batteries, so there's no need to worry about whether it will be able to drive the wheels. The existing electric drive systems should handle that. If they can get this thing to even be equal to the efficiency of a standard IC engine then they have a winner, due to the weight reduction. If they actually CAN remove 1000 lbs of mechanical parts then they could add 500 lbs of battery to the current hybrid cars and still save 500 lbs of mass. IF they can make it work then it makes a plug-in electric car much more realistic by increasing the range and allowing you to charge without plugging in if you need to.
fleem
5 / 5 (2) Mar 18, 2011
Open this page and click on the diagram at the right:

http://news.msu.e...ry/7036/
Shaffer
not rated yet Mar 18, 2011
To Mayday:

The prototype is supposedly going to be around 25 kW, which equates to about 30 horsepower. The only way to use that in a car is for charging batteries, so there's no need to worry about whether it will be able to drive the wheels. The existing electric drive systems should handle that. If they can get this thing to even be equal to the efficiency of a standard IC engine then they have a winner, due to the weight reduction. If they actually CAN remove 1000 lbs of mechanical parts then they could add 500 lbs of battery to the current hybrid cars and still save 500 lbs of mass. IF they can make it work then it makes a plug-in electric car much more realistic by increasing the range and allowing you to charge without plugging in if you need to.


...or they could just stack several of these together for more power...

I'm all about re-inventing the ICE.
3432682
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 18, 2011
The video and article told us nothing and showed us nothing.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Mar 19, 2011
he never actually shows it working. isn't that odd?


Most things that don't work aren't shown working.

Still, we have something to look forward to.

Until it is forgotten.

Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Mar 19, 2011
The "engine" shown in the diagram doesn't correspond with the "engine" shown in the diagram either in the article or referenced page.

ubavontuba
1 / 5 (1) Mar 19, 2011
Like many advanced ICE concepts before it, I see this one headed to the trash bin of history too.

One of my favorite concepts was a slotted valve shaft used to replace standard camshaft/poppet valve trains. It was simply a shaft with slots cut into it that when turned, would alternately line the appropriate slot up with either an intake, or exhaust port (similar to how a washerless faucet valve works). Brilliant in it's conception ...unworkable in reality. You just couldn't seal the shafts against the extreme pressures of combustion, keep them oiled, and protect them from pitting and other combustion damage.

I imagine this engine design will be much worse, as the combustion pressure is bound to warp the Wave Disk - causing binding and thwarting any attempt to effect a long-lasting seal.

Low power versions of it might work though, but to what practical purpose?
Skepticus
3 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2011
A better description and pic can be found here:
http://www.newsci...pin.html
James_Darlington
not rated yet Mar 20, 2011
I was hoping we would see this engine actually running. Talk and hype is worth nothing. Let's see if this thing can even run.

If u have a video of the engine running, I'd love to see it.
Shadetree_Engineer
5 / 5 (1) Mar 20, 2011
Holding the combustion pressure until the disk can reach an exhaust port is what's killing this design. The video shows a demonstration model faced with plexiglass. I would bet that the inventor couldn't show a working demonstration because his prototypes keep melting the exhaust ports until there's no sealing to continue the combustion process. My guess is a fresh build will start & run just fine, then after 10 minutes will start gradually blowing flames out the exhaust until finally it starts to lose power and run slower & slower. If it's designed to avoid the sealing requirements, and just use the reaction mass of a low-pressure air/fuel mixture, then it'll be much less efficient than a typical jet turbine. It probably does put out 25 kW for the first ten minutes, and I bet it really does run at a very high efficiency for the first minute. But you can't just take those numbers and say that's what this engine will do year in and year out. Which is what the ICE is capable of.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (1) Mar 21, 2011
But you can't just take those numbers and say that's what this engine will do year in and year out. Which is what the ICE is capable of.
Exactly.

And ICE's are only getting more efficient. Currently, they're developing gasoline powered open throttle/direct injection systems (similar to current diesel technologies) which will significantly reduce pumping inefficiencies.

Jim1138
not rated yet Mar 21, 2011
Open this [MSU] page and click on the diagram at the right:


Oh, it's Michigan State University. I suppose they are allowed to violate the laws of physics to achieve uber-efficiency? Are people who read physorg.com really that credulous?
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Mar 21, 2011
My brother sent me this link a couple weeks ago. It shows some simple annimations of various engine designes. Here's the link to the Wankel rotary, and if you click on the links at the left of the page there are a bunch of others. You can clearly see how the Wankel design would have seal/friction problems.

htDELET_MEtp://www.animatedengines.com/wankel.shtml

Enjoy munute(s) of entertainment. :)
Skepticus
1 / 5 (1) Mar 21, 2011
Holding the combustion pressure until the disk can reach an exhaust port..

Totally agree. It seems to work on the reaction turbine principle. Unless the supplied air-fuel mixture is already highly compressed and high flowing(by another upstream compressor setup?), the puffs of combustion gas from limited sectors of the disk/blades hardly seem adequate to make much power. Also, from the schematics, the combustion zones are locallized, then you will have uneven heating and metal expansion problems, like the Wankel. Turbine-like blades working in extremely close and varying tolerance to surrounding engine body, while subjected to repectitive shockwaves..sound like a jet engine under surge all the time. I'd give the inventor the benefit of doubt: make a telemetried video that shows their eingine run at some useful output level for 24 hrs straight. that's the rough benchmark for the sort of work modern combustion engine in a car or truck can do.
bananabender
not rated yet Mar 22, 2011
Ubavontuba said:

"One of my favorite concepts was a slotted valve shaft used to replace standard camshaft/poppet valve trains. It was simply a shaft with slots cut into it that when turned, would alternately line the appropriate slot up with either an intake, or exhaust port (similar to how a washerless faucet valve works). Brilliant in it's conception ...unworkable in reality. You just couldn't seal the shafts against the extreme pressures of combustion, keep them oiled, and protect them"

In fact sleeve valves were used with considerable success in aircraft engines for decades. The most advanced aircraft engines of WW2 such as the Napier Sabre used them. The main problem is that they require high tolerances and high quality materials.

Cosworth developed a prototype 500cc sleeve engine which produced 148kW/L - around twice the specific output of the best normally aspirated modern car engines.

bananabender
not rated yet Mar 22, 2011
The Wankel engine was originally designed as a positive displacement air pump.

Most major car companies were developing Wankel engines in the 1960s. Only Mazda persisted and eventually managed to solve the rotor tip seal problem.

I drove a 415KW (550hp) Mazda RX-7 turbo back in 1998. The engine would effortlessly rev to the 10,000 rpm rev limit (the 0-400m time was ~11 seconds).
captainkohler
not rated yet Apr 21, 2011
Wow. A Phd in physics and suddenly what you think you know, makes you the law maker of physics.Henry Ford told his top engineers to make the eight cylinder engine a reality. If it was left to them, they would have given up. They told him it was impossible. Could there be problems or obstacles, absolutely. Are there solutions and a way to make massive amounts of energy better and more efficiently than we do now, if you can't see that there is, you need to go back to class.
To solve these issues, you have to see the implications of success, not the existing failures.