Monday, July 29, 2013

5:17 AM
How it Works: Despite its positive attributes, natural gas has one glaring issue—its energy density is far below that of gasoline. This means for an equivalent displacement engine, you get less power when using natural gas. FEV has built a prototype piston engine that's been optimized to burn natural gas. They've taken a block and head from a diesel engine and replaced the injectors with a spark plug, the pistons have been milled to create a tremendous amount of turbulence in the combustion chamber, and the engine has been turbocharged to cram more of the fuel/air mix into the combustion chamber. The custom long-runner intake, which would be something designed for high-torque in a gas engine, is used to prevent blowback and mixing between cylinders. The design allows for very high compression levels and as complete a fuel burn as possible.

Claimed Benefits: Natural gas is an extremely plentiful resource, so plentiful it's often burned off at well heads and refineries. As crude oil becomes more scarce and prices rise, many in the energy delivery industry are contemplating a switch to natural gas. The delivery infrastructure is largely in place, it's plentiful and it's a relatively clean-burning fuel.

Status: Currently experimental only. Though the engine has demonstrated performance improvements when compared to other natural gas engines, it has its own problems. The piston design leads to galling of the cylinder walls and the engine is too heavy for its power output. However, it's a step in the right direction along a path you'll probably hear much more about in the future.


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