Skip to comments.The Race to 100 MPG
Posted on 10/25/2006 7:13:52 AM PDT by Red Badger
Jet-Engine Inspiration Another potential player in the race to 100 mpg is the StarRotor, which began life as an air conditioner at Texas A&M University. Chemical-engineering professor Mark Holtzapple and his colleague Andrew Rabroker were attempting to build a better compressor for an air conditioner when they hit on the idea that became the StarRotor engines basic architecture. Once they made the connection to car engines, we quickly forgot about air conditioners, Rabroker says. They have since formed a business (also called StarRotor) to commercialize the technology.
The StarRotor uses the same thermodynamic process as jet engines to recuperate some of the heat normally lost to exhaust, something that the design of a piston engine doesnt allow. The exhaust heat warms the air that comes into the engine before the fuel is added [see illustration, below]. This hot air leads to more powerful combustion, which means the StarRotor can extract more energy from a given amount of fuel than a conventional engine could.
Intake air is compressed [A] and heated [B] before it ignites in the combustor [C]. The exhaust spins the rotor [D] that drives the wheels. It then warms the heater [E].
Based on data from compressor prototypes, Rabroker believes the StarRotor will convert between 45 and 65 percent of the chemical energy in its fuel to mechanical energy, irrespective of the engines operating speed or power. In contrast, a typical gasoline engine has a peak efficiency of about 30 percent at full throttle and operates at a much lower efficiency during typical driving conditions. Double is a gimme, Rabroker says of the StarRotors potential. I think we can ultimately triple the fuel mileage.
Double or triple, though, whats important is that innovators are developing solutions to our oil predicament solutions that could have a huge influence before the first hydrogen-powered car ever leaves the lot.
When Billy Baker isnt writing about the automotive industry, hes working on a book about the juggling subculture.
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Seal issues. Think Wankel.
I don't wank seals..........
That compressor doesn't look very efficient.
Looks can be "deceiving", lesser_satan.........
It's actually not all that dissimilar from a rotary engine that Mazda RX-7s and RX-8s have.
I think you blew a seal,
no it's just ice cream
LOL...or blow them.
Look promising, of course the proof is in the pudding. They need a working prototype, and need to prove its efficiency in typical automotive use, plus it has to have similar longevity compared to todays piston engine. I wish them the best.
This is a standard turbine engine with a positive displacement compressor and turbine instead of centrifugal. The heat recuperator is nothing new either. Actually, I have often wondered why there hasn't been more development in this technology before.
If it's in production why isn't anyone using it?
If it's in development why would they broadcast their invention before production?
The key differences from a wankel that I see are that the combustion takes place away from the moving parts, and the compression and the expansion take place in separate mechanisms. It seems that the "seal" issues of the Wankel may not be as much of an issue here.
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Looks to me like one of those jet engines you make from an old automobile turbocharger. Just hook a drive shaft up to it...
What's the bid geal with 100mpg? My mother drives a diesel Citroen C1 which does 83mpg at a steady 56mph. On gentle runs she's got nearly 90mpg. . . . .
Yup... and Wankels are not very fuel-efficient engines to begin with, compared to piston engines of similar horsepower. It looks like they've managed to recapture some waste heat and use it, upping the efficiency, but these claims sound terribly speculative.
Also, what's with the "the exhaust spins the rotor that drives the wheels" part? That sounds a lot like the old Chrysler Turbine setup. The diagram shows no connection between the compression and drive rotors, not even a viscous coupling. The vehicle better be small and light, because I suspect this design will share another Wankel characteristic - low torque. Efficiency is great, but if it can't do the work...