Michigan State University (MSU) mechanical
engineering associate professor Norbert Mueller [profile] has invented an engine quite unlike
those that the world is familiar with today. It has no transmission.
It ditches the piston, valves, and crankshaft. It doesn't need to
use cooling liquids.
Meet the Wave Disc Generator [video], the engine that could be the death of
traditional gas and diesel internal combustion engines (ICEs).
When people claim to have a novel alternative to the ICE, they're typically
peddling snake oil investments. But Dr. Mueller has carefully documented
his progress and is offering a true ICE replacement. In short, he's
turned what's typically a fantasy into reality.
The Wave Disc Generator starts with a rotor that feeds fuel into channels in
the disc. As the rotor spins, it naturally mixes the fuel with oxygen in
the air. The rotor also blocks the channels as it cycles. This
creates a buildup in pressure within the channel chamber, which creates a shock
wave capable of igniting the fuel.
These shock waves cause the rotor to turn vigorously, much as a traditional ICE
powers the rotations of the transaxle system.
The new design is able to apply the combustion energy of 60 percent of its fuel
directly towards propulsion. A normal ICE only applies about 15 percent.
Thus the Wave Disc Generator is about 3.5 times as efficient as existing
The gains largely owe to inherent mechanical efficiency gains, the reduced
friction from fewer components, and channel refinements Dr. Mueller's team has
The efficiency gains become even more impressive when you consider the engine
weight. Typically the engine is one of the heaviest car components.
By adopting this far slimmer engine that eliminates significant portions
of the drive train, the weight of a hybrid could be reduced several hundred of
Between the base efficiency gains and the weight reduction, a Wave Disc
Generator-powered car would likely get in excess of 100 miles per gallon.
There's one problem -- the current prototypes are far to small to power an
automobile -- they fit in the palm of your hand. But with a $2.5M USD
from the U.S.
Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency•Energy (ARPAe) grant
program, Dr. Mueller's team at the MSU Engine Research Laboratory thinks they
can come up with a car-sized 25 kilowatt prototype within a year's time.
If they can, they may have found a way for the auto industry to cheaply meet
and beat strict upcoming fuel standards. And they
may save consumers millions of dollars and strength national security in the
process, by reducing dependence on expensive Middle Eastern oil.
MSU isn't the biggest state university around or the hugest name in research
(not as well known as say Harvard or MIT). But it has been home to some
groundbreaking works. Among those was the first documented observation of evolution in
a laboratory setting. As important as that study was to modern genetics
and biology, this engine could be an even more important work, if it meets its