Porsche's New Wheel-Shaped Pistons Are Lighter And Cooler

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This could help prevent engine knock in high-stress situations.

Whether you're driving a Porsche 911 GT3 on track or sending a 911 Turbo down the drag strip, heat plays a critical role. You need to generate heat in your tires for grip, and you need to keep oil temperatures down to ensure the longevity of your engine. The first one is easy enough to achieve, but thermal management in the engine bay is decidedly more difficult to master.

For OEMs, a shift toward electrification suggests that what we currently have in a traditional engine design is adequate, but not all manufacturers are convinced that we're going to be saddled with EVs, and Porsche is among those looking to further refine the internal combustion engine. In new patent documents discovered by CarBuzz, we learn that the latest Zuffenhausen innovation sees the crown of a piston shaped like a wheel, and the potential benefits look promising.


The patent documentation notes a "piston head through which a wheel-shaped cooling channel runs; the cooling passage has spokes fluidically connected at a center point of the piston crown; and the spokes are unevenly distributed over the piston crown." It's simple enough to understand the basic principles: by adding these cooling channels, the piston can be made lighter and more efficient, burning up the air/fuel mixture more thoroughly. But why are these channels uneven?

For a start, only one side of the piston (that nearest the fuel injector and intake valves) is dealing with extraordinary heat. As such, "the piston crown comprises predetermined partial areas which are designed for high thermal stress, and the spokes are arranged more densely in the thermally highly stressed partial areas."


Porsche notes that, in a traditional cooling system where the ring channel runs through the outer area of the piston and dissipates the heat into the piston through the oil, the cooling effect is locally limited, which creates an irregular temperature profile in the piston crown where the center of the piston remains "strongly heated during operation."

The new design would remedy this by including "a cooling structure with asymmetrical recesses in order to do justice to the non-uniform thermal load."

Essentially, Porsche is saying that this new design will help the center of the piston stay as cool as the edges, which means better reliability and, more importantly for a performance car, less susceptibility to engine knock. The manufacturing process will be rather complex, but we know that, for Porsche, excellence is a way of life. If this idea has real benefits, and it does, Porsche will surely pursue it.

2008-2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Engine Porsche
Graham Rahal Performance

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