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March 03, 2010

Transonic Supercritical Fuel Injection Could Improve Gasoline Engines by 50-75 Percent

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Transonic Combustion, based in Camarillo, CA, has developed a gasoline fuel injection system that can improve the efficiency of gasoline engines by 50 to 75 percent, beating the fuel economy of hybrid vehicles. A test vehicle the size and weight of a Toyota Prius (but without hybrid propulsion) showed 64 miles per gallon for highway driving. The company says the system can work with existing engines, and costs about as much as existing high-end fuel injection.

Transonic Combustion uses supercritical-state fuel to radically shift the technological benefits of the automotive internal combustion engine This technology was featured at the ARPA-E Innovation summit and has DOE funding.

TSCi Fuel Injection achieves lean combustion and super efficiency by running gasoline, diesel, and advanced bio-renewable fuels on modern diesel engine architectures. Supercritical fluids have unusual physical properties that Transonic is harnessing for internal combustion engine efficiency. Supercritical fuel injection facilitates short ignition delay and fast combustion, precisely controls the combustion that minimizes crevice burn and partial combustion near the cylinder walls, and prevents droplet diffusion burn. Our engine control software facilitates extremely fast combustion, enabled by advanced microprocessing technology. Our injection system can also be supplemented by advanced thermal management, exhaust gas recovery, electronic valves, and advanced combustion chamber geometries.

Fuel efficiency improvements enabled by advanced combustion technologies of 50% or more for automotive engines (relative to spark-ignition engines dominating the road today in the U.S.) and 25% or more for heavy-duty truck engines (relative to today’s diesel truck engines) are possible in the next 10 to 15 years



Our fuel system efficiently supports engine operation over the full range of conditions – from stoichiometric air-to-fuel ratios at full power to lean 80:1 air-to-fuel ratios at cruise, with engine-out NOx at just 50% of comparable standard engines. Our real-time programmable control of combustion heat release results in dramatically increased efficiency.

Along with operating on gasoline, our technology can efficiently utilize fuels based on their chemical heat capacity independent of octane or cetane ratings. Thus, economical, highly functional mixtures of renewable plant products can be utilized which are not practical in either conventional spark or compression ignition engines. In dynamometer testing on current engine architectures, our technology has successfully run on gasoline, diesel, biodiesel, heptane, ethanol, and vegetable oil. Recently our engineers achieved seamless operation alternating between several different fuels on one of our customer’s engines in our Camarillo test facilities.


Supercritical Fuel Injection

Automotive Engineering International Feature - Supercritical fuel injection and combustion

Recent work by Mike Cheiky, a physicist and serial inventor/entrepreneur, is focusing on raising not only the fuel mixture’s pressure but also its temperature.

Cheiky's aim, in fact, is to generate a little-known, intermediate state of matter—a so-called supercritical (SC) fluid—which he and his co-workers at Camarillo, CA-based Transonic Combustion believe could markedly increase the fuel efficiency of next-generation power plants while reducing their exhaust emissions.

Transonic’s proprietary TSCi fuel-injection systems do not produce fuel droplets as conventional fuel delivery units do, according to Mike Rocke, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development. The supercritical condition of the fuel injected into a cylinder by a TSCi system means that the fuel mixes rapidly with the intake air which enables better control of the location and timing of the combustion process.

The novel SC injection systems, which Rocke calls “almost drop-in” units, include “a GDI-type,” common-rail system that incorporates a metal-oxide catalyst that breaks fuel molecules down into simpler hydrocarbon chains, and a precision, high-speed (piezoelectric) injector whose resistance-heated pin places the fuel in a supercritical state as it enters the cylinder.

Company engineers have doubled the fuel efficiency numbers in dynamometer tests of gas engines fitted with the company’s prototype SC fuel-injection systems, Rocke said. A modified gasoline engine installed in a 3200-lb (1451-kg) test vehicle, for example, is getting 98 mpg (41.6 km/L) when running at a steady 50 mph (80 km/h) in the lab.

The 48-employee firm is finalizing a development engine for a test fleet of from 10 to 100 vehicles, while trying to find a partner with whom to manufacture and market TSCi systems by 2014.

“A supercritical fluid is basically a fourth state of matter that’s part way between a gas and liquid,” said Michael Frick, Vice President for Engineering. A substance goes supercritical when it is heated beyond a certain thermodynamic critical point so that it refuses to liquefy no matter how much pressure is applied.

SC fluids have unique properties. For a start, their density is midway between those of a liquid and gas, about half to 60% that of the liquid. On the other hand, they also feature the molecular diffusion rates of a gas and so can dissolve substances that are usually tough to place in solution.

To minimize friction losses, the Transonic engineers have steadily reduced the compression of their test engines to between 20:1 and 16:1, with the possibility of 13:1 for gasoline engines.

Patents

Thus far 3 patents (#7444230, #7546826, #7657363) have been issued to Transonic from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office related to our technology, with another 14 patents pending.

Patent 7444230 - Fuel injector having algorithm controlled look-ahead timing for injector

The present invention provides an injector-ignition fuel injection system for an internal combustion engine, comprising an ECU controlling a heated catalyzed fuel injector for heating and catalyzing a next fuel charge, wherein the ECU uses a one firing cycle look-ahead algorithm for controlling...

Application number: 12/464,790 - INJECTOR-IGNITION FOR AN INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE
The present invention provides a heated catalyzed fuel injector that dispenses fuel substantially exclusively during the power stroke of an internal combustion engine, wherein ignition occurs in a fast burn zone at high fuel density such that a leading surface of the fuel is completely burned...

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