Turbine technology, anyone?
With the arrival of all-electric products such as the BMW iX and Kia EV6, manufacturers around the world are slowly trying to decrease their reliance on the internal combustion engine. The technology that has been driving cars for over a century is now being classified as too dirty for the planet and not as reliable as recent electric innovations.
But a small firm operating out of Wichita, Kansas argues that there is still a place for the fuel-burning mill and it comes in the form of its latest Omega 1 turbine engine. Astron Aerospace says that with its latest proposal, engine-powered products from cars to planes and boats can all benefit from this engine which delivers impressive consumption figures with nearly no harmful emissions.
The specs of the Omega 1 are quite impressive. The unit itself weighs in at just 35 pounds but can produce 160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. It'll idle at an engine speed of 1,000 rpm but redline at 25,000, giving it a wide range of performance. This unit can also be stacked if you want to add more power to your vehicle.
So, how exactly does the Omega 1 produce this power? It's simpler than the process executed by your usual piston internal combustion engine. By employing a simple rotation setup, the creators claim that the loss of power through friction is minimized. Emissions are brought down by creating a system where only the synchronization gears and bearings need lubrication. This means that the cross-contamination of oil does not occur as you would find in a piston engine.
The Omega One combustion cycle is surprisingly a lot simpler than that of a piston engine. Air is drawn in through the intake compressor rotor assembly and then fed into the pre-chamber where it is efficiently mixed with a dose of fuel using two cleverly designed teeth mated to a set of rings. This combination is then injected into the combustion chamber via a rotary valve.
To ensure a high operating temperature, the timing has been set so that the ignition plugs set off a flame propagation during the warm-up and auto-ignition events. This means that the ignition event takes place within the chamber at a higher velocity. As soon as this takes place, the rotary valve closes off the port until the mixture comes into contact with the ignition point located at the rotor paddle.
To streamline the combustion, the Omega 1 sports a specialized supercharger that forces air in at 200 to 300 psi. This is significantly stronger than what you would find in current supercharged engines. The key element of its efficiency is provided by the unit's "skip fire" feature that can maintain combustion at every rotation point during acceleration.
If you opt to travel at a cruising speed, the spark rate will be reduced to the number of rotations as determined necessary by the computer system. This can be every five, 10, or even 50 turns to maintain an idling rotation when traveling at high speeds, boosting efficiency. The very same system can work as responsively when more power is required by increasing rotations with almost no throttle lag.
Astron Aerospace explains that its engine is the first of its kind with its active linear power transfer. This allows the setup to transfer all of its power through one rotating power shaft which means no assistance in the form of crankshafts, pistons, or even an eccentric shaft, as you would find on a rotary, is needed. Thanks to this simplicity, the design team was able to create a unit that is significantly lighter than a piston engine. Moreover, just like a Wankel-design rotary engine, this power unit can be stacked, meaning that you can easily increase capability and performance with minimal increases in weight and size.
The system touts amazing reliability as well. Seeing as there are fewer moving parts, the design team says that a single unit will be good for over 100,000 hours of usage before needing an overhaul. This service has been described to be an affordable job to keep the long-running costs at a minimum. We don't exactly know when we will get to see the Omega 1 in future products but Astron Aerospace confirms that it has filed patents in the local and international regions such as China, Korea, India, and more.
The idea of shoving a turbine engine into a car is not an all-new idea. Back in 2018, an Indian start-up called Vazirani Automotive proposed a new supercar with a gasoline-fuelled unit (albeit a jet system) that we could be seeing it in the USA in the coming years, but like Techrules that showed up a year earlier, nothing concrete has come of the concept so far. Perhaps Astron Aerospace's altogether different idea will have greater success.
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