Mitja Hinderks (United States of America)
Chief Executive Officer - LITUS Inc.
Opportunity: High-efficiency Un-cooled Engines
Today: Every time a piston engine runs anywhere, 30% to 50% of fuel energy is dissipated through its air or water cooling system and general radiation. Can we continue to waste this energy ?
Tomorrow: Un-cooled Insulated Engines: Litus is developing high-efficiency un-cooled engines, for most power ranges and applications. With ceramic pistons and cylinders inside thermally insulating casings, un-cooled engines will use existing fuels and infrastructures, be many times lighter and smaller than cooled engines, and will be virtually silent, super-clean, longer lasting, and more reliable. There is no piston oil system and no coolant plumbing, so most engines can be rapidly-exchangeable "snap-in" units. Higher temperatures alone lead to further big efficiency increases. Overall, CO2 emissions will be roughly halved and efficiencies doubled. Add-on systems will recover hot exhaust gas energy for additional large efficiency gains.
Up to 60 % of man-made CO2 is said to come from internal combustion (IC) engines. High-efficiency un-cooled engine production - with costs equivalent to today's - would result in replacement of nearly all of today's cooled engines over the next twelve years, as few would buy cooled engines (see next page). Successfully spending much of $15 million of Litus’ development budget would alone result in reducing global man-made CO2 by over 25%, and greatly reduce pollution caused by fossil fuel extraction. This is in contrast to the $ trillions needed for solar, ocean and tidal power, wind farms, electric vehicles and charging systems.
Intellectual Property (IP) & Market: Extensive and valuable patents and patent applications in over fifty countries - including China, Japan and India - offer a probable "lock" on key un-cooled engine ideas. Today's annual total world engine market is estimated at around $300 billion (US $50 billion).
Development Plan: Litus, with partners, is designing commercial prototypes, of 150 to 450 kW (200 to 600 hp) power, 25 to 50 kg (55 to 110 lb) weight, 48% to 54% output shaft efficiencies. Up to twelve engines, using a variety of fuels, will be built and tested within two years. Insulated engine casings would have a drive shaft out, apertures for air, exhaust, fuel, and connectors for controls. Outline orders are being sought for evaluation prototypes, suited for electrical generators, compressors, for hybrid drives in vehicles, ships, and industrial equipment.
BENEFITS OF UN-COOLED ENGINES
1 High Efficiency, Reduced CO2 Emissions: Dissipation - wastage - of fuel energy via cooling systems and general radiation is eliminated. Temperature differences between incoming air and combustion are roughly doubled, for further large efficiency gains - per the Carnot rules - and CO2 reductions. Most cooled engines currently have output shaft efficiencies of only 10% to 30%, depending on size, use, operation, age. They are much less efficient as they get smaller, unlike un-cooled engines. Calculations for un-cooled units show about 48% to 54% output shaft efficiencies, in all size ranges and for all fuels, ie around double today's values.
2 No Traditional Cooling and Oil Systems: with their associated cost, weight, and bulk. Cooling or oil system failures are prime causes of engine breakdowns. Un-cooled engines will use gas bearings (replacing oil) to separate piston and cylinder.
3 Easier Emissions Control: Higher temperatures will simplify removal of regulated emissions, with the exception of NOx (nitric oxides). Litus has devised ways to limit high temperature NOx.
4 Much Better Power-to-Weight Ratios: Calculations project insulated un-cooled engines having between 2 and 20 times better power-to-weight and -bulk ratios.
5 Great Simplification: Most engines will have only one to five base moving parts, excluding small fuel system parts. Modern four-cylinder engines have at least twenty base moving parts.
6 Superior Reliability, Reduced Maintenance: There are no cooling or piston / cylinder oil systems; There is nearly no contact between piston and cylinder; there are far fewer parts to fail or maintain. Usually transmissions or power take-offs will need servicing every 50,000 miles or so.
7 Equal or Lower Production Costs: Ceramic pistons and cylinders may be up to three times more costly than metal ones, but most Litus engines need only one of each; there are far fewer other parts. There are no cooling and piston oil systems. Engines could fetch premium prices, with higher margins.
8 Lower Life-Cycle Costs: These will be much lower, due to halved fuel use, fewer or no oil changes, reduced maintenance and breakdowns. At $4.25/gallon, a US Class 8 truck driving 200,000 miles annually at 7 mpg using an un-cooled engine will save over $60,000/year in fuel and oil changes alone. Today's truck engines cost about $30,000, so using a $60,000 un-cooled unit would pay back in six months. With higher fuel costs in Europe, online and Africa, savings and paybacks will be even greater.
9 Nearly Silent: Un-cooled engines will be housed in thermally and acoustically insulating casings, in vehicles and equipment. They will emit virtually no sound, for much easier regulatory compliance.
10 Improved Compounding: Adding secondary systems such as turbines to derive further energy from the hot exhaust gases will boost efficiencies up to 70 %. The significantly hotter exhaust gases contain a greater, more easily-retrievable portion of total fuel energy.
11 Nearly No Heat Signature: The engine and its casing are designed to give off nearly no heat. Exhaust gases can be diffused, ducted or processed. This is significant for military applications.
12 Snap-in Units: There is little or no plumbing, no need to circulate air around a block. Small, light, engine casings can be swapped out in minutes as "cartridges". Engines could be substituted for varying uses. Vehicles, boats and equipment will not need to be towed to repair facilities.
13 Increased Market Share: Un-cooled engines will replace turbines in many applications (eg helicopters), due to lower costs, much better efficiencies, or equal or better power-to-weight ratios.