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Old 05-02-2009, 08:56 AM   #1
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Default Geekfest: 2009 SAE World Congress


This year's SAE World Congress was kicked off with a rousing speech by someone many of the engineers in the room may have wanted to throw vegetables at, California's CO2-reducer-in-chief, Governator A. Schwarzenegger. By way of conciliation he conceded that perhaps Detroit hadn't enjoyed as much regulatory support as it could have used in developing high-efficiency cars, and he concluded (about an hour late) with an offer to produce commercials for the Detroit Three's green cars free of charge. Thanks, awfully. Once the hot air dissipated, we set out to uncover the hidden gems of future tech that always lie hidden amongst the booths of gaskets, seals, and hard-candy dishes.

Vengeance Power! SAE often serves as a launching pad for unconventional engines, most of which boast immense improvements in efficiency (what else would be the point?), and this rotary-vane design is no exception. Some of the basic advantages are shared with the Wankel rotary: intake and combustion happen in different places, reducing the chance of heat-related predetonation; there are fewer moving parts, because simple intake and exhaust porting means no valves are needed; and operation is inherently smooth, because no parts ever have to stop and reverse direction like pistons do. But the Vengeance design uses a round rotating element out of which eight vanes roll to follow the vaguely oval outer wall of the intake/compression/combustion/exhaust chamber.
The vanes are driven in and out of the spinning rotor by rollers tracing a path that just keeps their seals in contact with the chamber walls, which supposedly results in far less friction than in a piston engine of similar displacement. One of the big advantages claimed is the shape of the combustion chamber, which is designed to allow considerably more time for the exploding gasses to expand, extracting far more of the heat value from the fuel, all of which is expended on a vane that remains perpendicular to the output shaft to extract the work efficiently. How efficiently? Up to a claimed 53 percent when running on gasoline. Interchangeable combustion chamber bowls can quickly alter the compression ratio, allowing the engine to run on almost any combustible fuel, even syngas or hydrogen (which requires ceramic seals). Because the explosion has time to end before the exhaust port is exposed, far less noise and heat flows out the tailpipe.
Torque of the 640-cube eight-vane prototype is rated at 2500 pound-feet-plus over most of the low operating speed range of the engine, with power peaking at 551 hp at 1200 rpm. At a claimed weight of only 300 pounds it's a dense power unit, and indeed the greatest interest to date has been for use as a pusher-prop airplane engine. It could also be an ideal tank engine, but the Windsor, Ontario-based Vengeance Power engineers say that with a 5:1 up-ratio, it could also drive a car through a conventional transmission burning whatever fuel was most advantageous. It's a concept we'll keep a keen eye on as development progresses. Contact: [email protected]
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