Ask The Best And Brightest: Wave Disc Engines?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

We love staying ahead of the curve with new engine technologies like the Ecomotors OPOC engine, but without an engineering degree it can be hard to tell the the posers from the next big thing. So when something like the Wave Disc engine comes along, we throw ourselves upon the collective wisdom of our Best and rightest to help us make sense of it. In the video above, the Wave Disc engine’s creator, Michigan State’s Norbert Muller, explains his invention and its benefits including simplicity, light weight and efficiency. And, he claims, the technology is close enough to reality to have a Wave Disc-electric hybrid within three years. Hit the jump for more technical details, and be sure to let us know if this is worth watching or just another engineering dead-end.

New Scientist describes the Wave Disc’s operation:

As the rotor spins, the channels allow an air-fuel mixture to enter via central inlet ports. The mixture would escape through the outlet ports in the walls of the surrounding chamber, but by now the rotor has turned to a position where the channels are not pointing at the outlets.

The resulting sudden build-up of pressure in the chamber generates a shock wave that travels inwards, compressing the air-fuel mixture as it does so. Just before the wave reaches the central inlet ports, these too are shut off by the turning of the rotor.

The compressed mixture is then ignited. By this time the rotor’s channels are pointing towards the outlet ports again, releasing the hot exhaust. As the gas escapes at high speed, it pushes against the blade-like ridges inside the rotor, keeping it spinning and generating electricity.

In a hybrid application, however, Muller indicates that it would actually drive the wheels, and electrical power would assist in high-load circumstances.

In a PDF on the Wave Disc project, MSU describes the engine’s advantages:

MSU’s shock wave combustion generator is the size of a cooking pot and generates electricity very efficiently. This revolutionary generator replaces today’s 1,000 pounds of engine, transmission, cooling system, emissions, and fluids resulting in a lighter, more fuel-efficient electric vehicle. This technology provides 500-mile-plus driving range, is 30% lighter, and 30% less expensive than current, new plug-in hybrid vehicles. It overcomes the cost, weight, and driving range challenges of battery-powered electric vehicles.

The engine is also adaptable to multiple types of fuel, including hydrogen and natural gas. The government sees it as promising enough to fund research to the tune of $2.5m. But do you see this technology coming to the roads in just a few years? Given how many once-promising engine technologies have failed to live up to their promises, it’s by no means a foregone conclusion.

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4 of 35 comments
  • ChuckR ChuckR on Mar 20, 2011

    Here's a compressor/expander that in principal could be set up as an engine I came across this in the 90's and it looks like they are making progress in specialized applications - then, sealing and tribology were issues, plus the need for very precise machining. In the late 70's, Union Carbide did some research on dual pistons in a cylinder (like OPOC) and that was meant to run without cooling. Or lubrication. Not a problem if you made it out of silicon carbide, except you needed strength and very close to net size casting - good luck machining that stuff.

  • Ttacgreg Ttacgreg on Mar 20, 2011

    Ummm , where is the expandable volume of the chambers to allow the expanding burning gasses to apply mechanical force??

    • See 1 previous
    • Shaker Shaker on Mar 21, 2011

      Heh, heh, Scott... Reminds me of a fellow with a similar last name, who had us all believing that we'd be flying to work @ 200mph by now. (Wankels were involved, too.)

  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )
  • Thehyundaigarage Yes, Canadian market vehicles have had immobilizers mandated by transport Canada since around 2001.In the US market, some key start Toyotas and Nissans still don’t have immobilizers. The US doesn’t mandate immobilizers or daytime running lights, but they mandate TPMS, yet canada mandates both, but couldn’t care less about TPMS. You’d think we’d have universal standards in North America.
  • Alan I think this vehicle is aimed more at the dedicated offroad traveller. It costs around the same a 300 Series, so its quite an investment. It would be a waste to own as a daily driver, unless you want to be seen in a 'wank' vehicle like many Wrangler and Can Hardly Davidson types.The diesel would be the choice for off roading as its quite torquey down low and would return far superior mileage than a petrol vehicle.I would think this is more reliable than the Land Rovers, BMW make good engines.
  • Lorenzo I'll go with Stellantis. Last into the folly, first to bail out. Their European business won't fly with the German market being squeezed on electricity. Anybody can see the loss of Russian natural gas and closing their nuclear plants means high cost electricity. They're now buying electrons from French nuclear plants, as are the British after shutting down their coal industry. As for the American market, the American grid isn't in great shape either, but the US has shale oil and natural gas. Stellantis has profits from ICE Ram trucks and Jeeps, and they won't give that up.
  • Inside Looking Out Chinese will take over EV market and Tesla will become the richest and largest car company in the world. Forget about Japanese.