Yamaha-frame bike with scuba tank makes Dyson shortlist

Nov 06, 2012 by Nancy Owano report

(Phys.org)—Look what an Australian designer would like us to roll with in a no-emissions future: A motorcycle powered by nothing but air. Adding to a growing portfolio of ideas centered around compressed-air engines, this good-looking entry is called the 02 Pursuit. As an alternative-fuel bike, it reaches impressive speeds, given that is powered by a tank of compressed air. Opened up all the way, according to claims, the O2 Pursuit can do over 60 miles on a single tank and can zoom past trees and mountains at 87 mph. The obvious advantage to electric bikes would be that this Pursuit cycle would not require the big heavy batteries, long re-charging waits, and thoughts about battery disposal.

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The O2 Pursuit was designed by Dean Benstead, an industrial designer and a graduate of RMIT University, in Melbourne, Australia. Benstead started out with a what-if idea: "Living in a world where people can commute in vehicles and have fun without impacting on the environment in a scenario that seems unachievable and unimaginable—what if we could?" He worked the idea into a functional prototype stage with numerous design iterations along the way. He said he conducted a validation of air as with the use of life-cycle analysis mapping and futuring.

A Yamaha WR250R frame was fitted with a compressed-air engine, which is the DiPietro Air Engine developed by Engineair Australia, and a standard scuba diving tank. Last year, he showcased his O2 Pursuit air-powered motorcycle at the Sydney Motorcycle and Scooter Show. This year, the O2 Pursuit is one of the inventions that have been shortlisted for the upcoming James Dyson Award. There are 15 projects on the list and the winner and two runners-up will be announced on November 8.

As some suggest, however, the idea is wonderful but not yet practical. The drawback is lack of refilling stations, and a need to find power to compress the air in the first place. While are available to provide compressed air, they would not be efficient for something like a scuba tank. The answer would be in a "distributed generation smart grid," he said, where refill stations can be positioned around a city or rural area to facilitate the required range. The refill points would be navigable via the user's integrated smartphone and GPS system. Air energy could be compressed via solar or wind and stored in an inert state forever. Right now, however, the O2 Pursuit is a project that provides an inviting look into the use of air as an in, as he said, a post-petroleum world.

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User comments : 33

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LariAnn
3.3 / 5 (7) Nov 06, 2012
A corollary idea is to make a version of this bike to be more like a moped, and designed so that when it is rolling downhill, that movement could drive a small compressor to add compressed air back to the storage tank. This could happen also if the cyclist wished to pedal the cycle instead of riding powered by the compressed air. As he/she traveled, the tank would be gradually replenished using human energy. Finally, if designed in that way, compressed air stations wouldn't even be needed - all you'd need is a place to hook up to a motor that would spin the on-board compressor and fill the tank again!
RJS
5 / 5 (6) Nov 06, 2012
Scuba stores are reasonably common,
http://maps.googl...?q=scuba stores
and, a home compressor costs about the same as a Volt "charge station".
An aluminum 80 can also swap in/out easily; I used to have 4 sitting around.

"and a need to find power to compress the air in the first place"
??? and this is different than anything else? Does the author expect motorized conveyance that doesn't need power "in the first place"?
MP3Car
3 / 5 (5) Nov 06, 2012
I think I've read that electricity to compressed air, then to an air motor is less efficient than electricity to battery to an electric motor, as is the case in EVs. And also I think the energy storage density of batteries is higher than compressed air... it's been a while since i read that article, anyone else remember reading about an air powered car?
Sonhouse
3 / 5 (2) Nov 06, 2012
60 mile range is impressive in itself. My 3 cylinder 2 stroke bike can only go about 55 miles on a 2 gallon tank, not very good milage at all for a bike. 550 CC.
Pawl
4.3 / 5 (7) Nov 06, 2012
A corollary idea is to make a version of this bike to be more like a moped, and designed so that when it is rolling downhill, that movement could drive a small compressor to add compressed air back to the storage tank...


You may not be aware of this: A scuba tank is filled with compressed air at from 2000 lbs/square inch to over 4000 lbs/square inch, depending on its specifications. Filling a scuba tank requires a very powerful compressor, and the tank itself is placed into a pool of cold water to draw-off the heat created during the filling process. No compressor driven by such a small vehicle could "top up" a scuba tank.
pauljpease
5 / 5 (4) Nov 06, 2012
I think I've read that electricity to compressed air, then to an air motor is less efficient than electricity to battery to an electric motor, as is the case in EVs. And also I think the energy storage density of batteries is higher than compressed air... it's been a while since i read that article, anyone else remember reading about an air powered car?


Even if what you're saying is true (and it sounds plausible), that doesn't mean this isn't workable technology. Batteries are the most expensive and most environmentally unfriendly part of electric vehicles, and the heaviest part as well (which reduces efficiency since you're spending energy to lug around your energy storage device). So, taken as a whole, the benefits might outweigh the negative aspects.
triplehelix
1.4 / 5 (10) Nov 06, 2012
Great, a miniature pure oxygen bomb right underneath your crotch, as if motorbikes weren't dangerous enough, a 3000psi oxygen tank hitting hard to the ground and rupturing sure sounds like a nice way to take out half the roads occupants

The video is quite cool, though the video did show evidence of a typo

Here I'll fix it "the O2 Pursuit can do over 60 miles on a single tank and can zoom past trees and mountains at 7 mph" Not 87mph
javjav
3.3 / 5 (3) Nov 06, 2012
It sounds better for a sea bike. The coast is plenty of scuba tank suppliers
djr
4.3 / 5 (6) Nov 06, 2012
"Great, a miniature pure oxygen bomb right underneath your crotch."

I ride to work most days - with 3 gallons of highly explosive hydrocarbon between my legs - I am OK with that. I don't think this idea presents the level of safety risk you suggest.
Eikka
2.1 / 5 (8) Nov 06, 2012
Filling a scuba tank requires a very powerful compressor, and the tank itself is placed into a pool of cold water to draw-off the heat created during the filling process.


Most of the energy that goes into compressing the gas turns up as heat that has to be removed. Likewise, the gas cools down as it is released from the tank, which reduces the pressure and you lose energy again.

In large systems you can use heat exchagers to warm up the expanding gas from the ambient heat and regain the lost energy, but in small systems the size of a scuba tank, you're losing 90% of the energy input because you don't have a heat exchanger big enough for the job.

That's why compressed air vehicles are generally a dumb idea. It starts to make sense on the scale of a train engine, where it can effectively replace a steam engine but not a modern diesel.

with 3 gallons of highly explosive hydrocarbon between my legs


Gasoline isn't "highly explosive". Volatile, but not explosive
triplehelix
2 / 5 (9) Nov 06, 2012
"Great, a miniature pure oxygen bomb right underneath your crotch."

I ride to work most days - with 3 gallons of highly explosive hydrocarbon between my legs - I am OK with that. I don't think this idea presents the level of safety risk you suggest.


Cool, im a YZF rider, whats yours?

3000psi oxygen tank will give a considerably higher bang than 3 gallons of hydrocarbon fuel. For a start, petroleum has to be in a mist aerosol form to cause a fire, with a required ignition source. A sudden fracture in the metal of an effectively gas cylinder at 3000psi is vastly more dangerous with no ignition source required.
Caliban
4 / 5 (4) Nov 06, 2012

It should be pointed out that this would be compressed air --not oxygen-- and that this max range of 60 miles is almost certainly on the flat. A significant grade along the route of travel would very quickly deplete the pressure which operates this compressed-air motor, if not overwhelm it outright.

Not useless --but limited application.
djr
3.5 / 5 (2) Nov 06, 2012
Cool, im a YZF rider, whats yours?

Kawasaki 800 V twin.

You are correct that I was off using the phrase highly explosive - but I still think the safety issue is very manageable - I would not be concerned about riding one of these - as long as the tank was well integrated into the frame design - so it could not become a projectile. Here are some videos of scuba tanks being ruptured - http://www.youtub...Ogh9REYk Notice no explosions. One guy is standing right next to the thing - and breaks the neck off with a hammer. Granted - if you were in the way of the discharging air - it could do some damage - but if my skin hits the black top at 70 mph - I don't want to think about that either - but I take the risk.
antialias_physorg
2 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2012
Great, a miniature pure oxygen bomb right underneath your crotch

Ever gone scuba diving? Or went on a hiking trip with a gas cooker? Did you feel unsafe?

Pressure tanks are fitted with rated break points (is that correct? Had to google-translate the word. It's an area on a pressure tank that is intentionally weaker than the rest so that if excessive pressure is generated (e.g. due to crash impact)).

As a low cost alternative I think this bike is a neat idea - even if its efficiency is lower than that of an EV. In areas where funds are scarce but energy is plentiful (think anywhere close to the equator) they might be really useful.
awol99
not rated yet Nov 07, 2012
get rid of those nobly tyres for a few more Ks per tank
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2012
More pollution NIMBY less efficiency
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2012
Or went on a hiking trip with a gas cooker? Did you feel unsafe?


Camping gas canisters are not high pressure due to the high boiling point of the liquefied gas. It doesn't take much of a pressure to keep them liquid. Butane for example boils at -0.5 C at sea level, and that's why you keep matches instead of butane lighters when you're out camping. Gas canisters have a mixture of butane and propane which has a boiling point around -25 C, chosen as a compromize between lower vapor pressure and lower operating temperature. Pure propane would boil at -42 but it would require stronger containers.

It's interesting that if you take a lighter refill bottle and chuck it in the freezer, you can pour out liquid butane into a glass. Don't try to use a styrofoam cup as it will dissolve.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Nov 07, 2012
It doesn't take much of a pressure to keep them liquid.

The point was that you can blow these up quite easily if you put your mind to it (did that once. Comes under the category of "don't try this at home").

We carry with us all manners of energy containers that are potentially dangerous (right down to lithium batteries in laptops and cell phones). But due to some very basic safety measures they usually are not - to the point where if you really worry about this stuff you should be worrying about a lot of other stuff that is much more likely first.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2012
The point was that you can blow these up quite easily if you put your mind to it (did that once. Comes under the category of "don't try this at home").


If you throw the canister around until it springs a leak, the drop in pressure makes the liquid boil, which cools it down rapidly and slows down the outgassing. What you get is a simple leak. Of course, if you chuck one on a campfire, the results will be more dramatic.

A 300 bar scuba tank on the other hand turns into a pneumatic missile: http://www.youtub...Q#t=100s

The results of tank blow-out can get nasty: http://www.wtsp.c...g-divers
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2012
If you're in a type of accident (with a motorcycle) that can deliver that much force then the pressure cannister is the least of your problems.

I think we should really kep this in perspctive. Whenever you lug around an energy reservoir (be it a battery, a gas tank, a hydrogen container or compressed air) you can construct a situation where that energy will be released almost instantly. But there is a difference between 'senible concern' and 'unreasonable fear'.

If you're still paranoid then use a car that runs on wood chips. Those are pretty hard to blow up.
triplehelix
2.3 / 5 (6) Nov 07, 2012
The amount of NON science here is shocking. In my job I regularly have to change all forms of gas cylinder (for Mass spec) and trust me, you do not want a cylinder springing a leak!

"What you get is a simple leak."

Erm, no you dont, you obviously have NO idea what compressed gas is capable of. I have personally seen a dropped gas cylinder fire through 4 layers of brick wall and cause a LOT of damage. Have you seen the skin of a ruptured gas cylinder? (Non explosive). If you stood next to a simple air cylinder when it leaks, the pressure escaping makes such a force it rips open 1 inch thick metal like it was paper. The motorcycle in the bideo BARELY pushed 10mph, I am definitely more concerned with the cylinder.
dschlink
5 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2012
"If you're still paranoid then use a car that runs on wood chips. Those are pretty hard to blow up."

However, woodgas is mostly CO and H2, both explosive and poisonous. Portable energy sources with enough density per kg to be useful will always be dangerous. We accept that risk every time we get in a car.
tadchem
5 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2012
"...without impacting on the environment"?
It takes a lot of energy to compress air. That energy must come from a power plant somewhere - one that perhaps burns coal, gas, or uranium. A problem deferred is NOT a problem solved.
It also takes a massive and expensive compressor: http://www.ebay.c...26613296
djr
not rated yet Nov 07, 2012
"It also takes a massive and expensive compressor:" But could also be done from a much smaller/cheaper unit - http://shoeboxcom...odHzMArw
Eikka
not rated yet Nov 08, 2012
"What you get is a simple leak." Erm, no you dont, you obviously have NO idea what compressed gas is capable of.


That comment was in relation to camping gas cylinders. The kind with a screw-on burner on top. They're not under high pressure and even if you puncture one, it just goes PSSSH until all the liquid spills out or boils off.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Nov 09, 2012
"It also takes a massive and expensive compressor:"

What would speak against installing those at gas stations?

However, woodgas is mostly CO and H2, both explosive and poisonous.

The woodgas in the system at any one time (e.g. the time of a crash) is very small. The rest is bound up in the wood not yet used. The explosive potential is only about that which runs the motor at that time.
It's like with fusion vs. fission. In fusion the energy potential is much greater - but since only a tiny amount of he fuel is in a state where it can produce energy at any one time in the reactor (unlike with fission) it's safe.
Pawl
not rated yet Nov 10, 2012
"It also takes a massive and expensive compressor:" But could also be done from a much smaller/cheaper unit -


A compressor at a dive shop can fill a full-size scuba tank in about 10 minutes. I know this because I have a scuba tank that I fill regularly. The "Shoebox" compressor booster takes about 3 hours, according to the testimonials on the page. That is a big difference.
Pkunk_
1 / 5 (2) Nov 10, 2012
"...without impacting on the environment"?
It takes a lot of energy to compress air. That energy must come from a power plant somewhere - one that perhaps burns coal, gas, or uranium.

So what is your solution to a "carbon free" future? Solar powered planes and cars all around us? Just not practical.
A problem deferred is NOT a problem solved.
It also takes a massive and expensive compressor:

It also takes a massive and expensive compressor to fill gasoline into your car everyday. So what is the difference? I think this idea will probably redefine the idea of a "gas" station.
Think about the savings in transporting petrol/diesel around. This is something you can just manufacture right out of "thin air".
baudrunner
1 / 5 (2) Nov 10, 2012
The video would have been more impressive if the driver wasn't drunk when he made it. I don't recommend anyone to drive drunk on a two-wheeler. Four-wheelers are much easier to handle in that state, and much safer for the driver.

You know, they say that there are two kinds of motorcycle riders in the world - those who have had accidents, and those who are going to have accidents.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Nov 10, 2012
Let the market decide.
Start taking orders and if some are more comfortable putting explosive liquids into their scooter let them.
Scuba divers and those who work with compressed gas may opt for this vehicle and set up kiosks to quickly refill or swap out tanks.
When autos were introduced there were few fuel stations. Drug stores used to sell gasoline.
JimCool
1 / 5 (2) Nov 10, 2012
I notice how the artical states it will zoom past mountains, not up them lol. I see a little self hype on that one. Anyway oxygen even pure 100% is not flamable.It simply makes things burn quicker and stronger that are already lit.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Nov 10, 2012
"It also takes a massive and expensive compressor:" But could also be done from a much smaller/cheaper unit -


A compressor at a dive shop can fill a full-size scuba tank in about 10 minutes. I know this because I have a scuba tank that I fill regularly. The "Shoebox" compressor booster takes about 3 hours, according to the testimonials on the page. That is a big difference.

Most dive shops need special compressors to keep the air clean.
Many auto shops have compressors to drive impact wrenches. A small compressor can fill a big tank over time. The key for any rapid filling is a large volume, high pressure tank, and a cooling tank of water to fill the cylinder in.
Filling tanks is what a high volume dive shop does all night.
And, there are now carbon fiber designs for high pressure tanks.
These guys might be able to help:

http://www.cimarr...ntro.php
Skepticus
1 / 5 (2) Nov 10, 2012
I can see a few "improvements". I would suggest extensive heat exchangers structures built into the bike itself, so that the cooling from the expanding gas is heated up by ambient air before entering the engine, improving efficiency. Also, an arrangement of rocket-type nozzles for that occasionally quick burst of speed...just for fun!