Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Green Tech: New Engine's Powered By Shock Waves!

          Michigan researchers have built a prototype of a new auto motor that does away with pistons, crankshafts and valves, replacing the old internal combustion engine with a disc-shaped shock wave generator. It could slash the weight of hybrid cars and reduce auto emissions by 90 percent.  This is an enormous improvement compared to conventional vehicles, where about 85 percent of fuel simply blows out the back end.
        The new generator is about the size of a saucepot, and would replace the 1,000-pound power train in most cars — no transmission, cooling system, emissions regulation or fluids needed. 
 The generator would also use about 60 percent of fuel for propulsion, which is a dramatic improvement over typical car engines, which use only 15 percent of fuel for forward movement. The system could also make cars 20 percent lighter, improving fuel economy even more.
The keyword for the research team is shock. Their generator’s heart is a rotor that contains wavy radial channels. This construction allows for a much better exploitation of energy. After ignition, an air-fuel mixture enters the chambers of the generator. Due to the rotating model, the outlets and subsequently the inlets, too, are blocked, so the mixture can’t escape as it would in other engines. The resulting high pressure induces shock waves that rip through the car, and keep the engine roaring. Compression, temperature, density – everything is used in a more sustainable way, while pistons, camshaft and valves become superfluous.
The "shock wave" prototype, a project made possible with funding from the US Department of Energy, can replace nearly 1,000 lbs. of engine, transmission, cooling system, emissions, and fluids. Companies could consider building vehicles that are lighter, smaller, and—greener.  And with an overall larger awareness from the population to save energy rising, the demand is definitely there. The team in Michigan hopes to have an even larger 25-kilowatt prototype by the end of this year.

Green Tech: Harvesting Our Own Energy!

I find myself thinking about alternative energy sources a lot and one idea that constantly pops into my head when thinking about future technology is the idea of using the things we do every day to store up usable power.  It’s a fascinating area of Green Tech, the harvesting of energy from our own bodies to power devices. Most of us create quite a bit of energy everyday whether it’s running, biking, swimming, skiing, even walking, etc.
 There has been a steady stream of concepts from designers and prototypes from labs lately though few are really viable. Fujitsu’s latest breakthrough in harvesting energy from both light and heat could be the next big thing for micro-energy harvesting via wearable technology. Without the need for electrical wiring or battery replacements, the company hopes it could be part of commercial products by 2015.
                Fujitsu’s hybrid device does what normally requires separate devices, one to harvests heat, one for vibrations, one for only light, etc. The company recognizes that alternatives for generating micro-energy are going the increase in demand in the next few years, and so they’re working to get ahead of the curve. It also recognizes that harvesting ambient energy from light, vibration, heat and so forth yields minute results, so hybrid devices are a smart way to go.
Fujitsu Laboratories writes that it has "successfully developed an organic material that is suitable for a generator in both photovoltaic and thermoelectric modes.
               The organic material features a high generating efficiency that can produce power from even indoor lighting in photovoltaic mode, and it can also generate power from heat in its thermoelectric mode. Since the organic material and its process cost are inexpensive, production costs can be greatly reduced
The company notes that the device will be perfect in the medical field, gathering energy from patients and their environments to run small life-saving devices, or it can be used for tasks like remote sensors for weather forecasting, or monitoring the integrity of structures like bridges, and other needs.
I’m not expecting it to be the biggest miracle breakthrough device that could power every handheld gadget, but it is a very interesting progression of renewable energy harvesting technology that could be very useful if it pans out.