The world frets about the rise in fuel prices and the environmental damage caused by motor pollution. An inventor in Kiryat Gat says he has the solution.
Hugo Tour, a retired Israel Air Force officer, claims the engine he's been working on for three years is the biggest breakthrough in motor technology since the invention of the internal combustion engine by Nikolaus Otto in 1876.
At his home laboratory in Kiryat Gat, Tour has built a working bench-prototype of a split cycle engine, which he predicts will improve engine efficiency by up to 100 percent and reduce carbon emissions by 50% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%. He also says his engine will work with any type of fuel and can be easily produced with slight modification of existing engines.
Two years ago, Tour, with the aid of his son Oded, a biophysicist who lives in San Diego, and a small group of investors, decided to found a company to bring his idea to fruition. The company was listed in the United States and so far has secured three patents.
"The existing motor is the worst thing a person could come up with, but all the other motors are even worse," Tour said recently. "The internal combustion engine takes heat energy and converts it to kinetic energy. In the process, 80% of the energy is wasted. It is a wonderful machine for producing stench and pollution, but we are all content to utilize only 20%. The question is, can it be done otherwise?"
Tour discovered that the biggest problem with the internal combustion engine is not in its mechanics but in the thermodynamic theory on which it is based. In the traditional internal combustion engine the energy transfer takes place in a single cylinder, where four actions take place: Intake - the piston sits at the bottom of the cylinder, air and fuel fill it up; compression - the piston pushes up, compressing the air and fuel; combustion - spark ignites the air and fuel mixture, producing a small explosion that pushes the piston down to its original position; and exhaust - gases and unburned fuel are vented from the cylinder.
In Tour's model the process is divided into two parts, each taking place in a separate cylinder. It is this separation, says Tour, which is the secret to the engines increased efficiency.
"The common four-stroke design is limited in how efficient it can become since it hosts, in the same location, dramatically conflicting thermodynamic strokes: Intake/compression, which should be optimized in a cold environment, and combustion/exhaust, which should be optimized in a hot environment. All reside in the same cylinder. The basic design is compromised," Oded Tour said. "We have a basic engine design with a superior thermal management layout - the opposed cylinders split the cycle, enabling optimization of the cold strokes at a cold environment and the hot strokes at a hot environment."
In essence, what Hugo Tour did, was take two off-the-shelf motors and fuse them so as they face each other. In his design, the air and fuel flow into the first (cold) cylinder, where they are compressed, pass through a timed-opening valve, and flow into the second (hot) cylinder, where the explosion takes place, pushing the piston which drives the crankshaft, thus producing motion.
"The increase in efficiency is obtained at multiple stages of the thermodynamic cycle. Firstly, it is more efficient to compress cold air than hot air.
"Secondly, the elevated temperature in the combustion chamber allows extraction of more mechanical work by elongation and widening of the combustion chamber, increasing the amount of energy extracted during the expansion stroke.
"And thirdly, higher grade waste-energy will be generated at the combustor that can be more efficiently converted into additional mechanical work with a secondary system," explained Oded Tour.
The company has the backing of scientists at the University of California, Irvine, and San Diego State University and is applying for a US government grant together with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Dr. Joseph Katz is the chairman of the department of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at San Diego State. He started at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, designing motors for the Merkava tank. After the Technion, he worked for NASA on its 40 by 80 foot (12.2 by 14.4 meter), full-scale wind tunnel. He is also chief aerodynamicist for Devon motor works, an American company that is working on a prototype supercar based on the Dodge Viper.
He was impressed with the alteration to the expansion capacities of the cylinder. When there was more room for the gases to expand in the chamber, you get a better usage of the energy, Katz explained. "They had elements that stand out above what you normally see with inventors. I liked it," he said.
Katz said that if the Tour engine had been invented a hundred years ago, when the now-standard auto-cycle engine was, then it would have conquered the market, but today things were different and decisions were more political. "They can probably do well in niche markets where the starting costs are not so high," he said.
The company's short-term objective is to secure government and private sector support to continue development and to produce a full sized state-of-the-art prototype, which can then be taken to the market.
Up until now, the project has been funded by personal investment on Tour's part and with the aid of a small group of Angel investors. Shlomo Caspi came into the picture after meeting Oded Tour at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival. "I saw he was reading a book in Hebrew and we got to talking," Caspi said.
Caspi, an Israeli immigrant to the US who has had success investing in biotech products, was immediately drawn to the idea of a new engine. Today he is the company's chief financial officer. "So far the investors have put $400,000 into the development. Some of the consultants were paid in options," he said.
Caspi said they have had problems raising the $3 million necessary to produce the next prototype. They've approached the leading venture capitalists, all of who have shown enthusiastic interest, but because of the tough economic times, none are taking on new projects, he said.
Tour said the company's long-term vision was to bring a family of high fuel efficiency engines to market.
The engine that Henry Ford built in 1906 and the engine you drive with today, delivers more or less the same kilometers per litre. Its time for a change," Tour said.
More information on Hugo Touro's comapny, Tour Engine, Inc. and on his invention can be found on www.tourengine.com.