The Libralato rotary engine now under development at Loughborough University, UK, is expected to conduct its first fired trials under its own power within the next ‘five or six weeks’ according to sources.
Described as ‘breakthrough technology’ and ‘an eco-engine for the 21st century’ the engine runs on gasoline but its inventor claims diesel-like efficiency and a 50 per cent mass reduction.
Invented by Dr Ruggero Libralato, the rotary engine has an asymmetrical geometry of expansion and compression volumes and does not need to convert the liner motion of a piston engine into rotary motion.
It is predicted to be able to demonstrate a power phase every revolution giving it twice the power of a conventional reciprocating engine. This gives it twice the power density of a reciprocating engine. It is also expected to demonstrate high mechanical and thermal efficiencies to the extent that it will be able to meet Euro 6 standards of emission and beyond.
It is also claimed that it can offer constant torque, low vibration and low exhaust gas noise and temperatures.
However, all these and other claims will only be substantiated when the engine finally runs on the test bed at Loughborough University under the leadership of Professor Richard Stobart. Up to now it is understood engineers have only supported combustion in the engine – they have not yet fired it up in earnest, though they are expected to do so before Christmas.
The engineers at Loughborough are taking matters judiciously, step by step, but it is their intention to build a larger and more refined rotary engine than the 25kW unit they are now working on.
It is understood the present engine has been built from ‘high quality aluminium alloy’ with ‘sensible tolerances’ and has been properly manufactured.
The rated speed of the engine is 3,500rev/min but in the early stages of development it is unlikely this speed will be reached as engineers tentatively explore the regimes of their new engine.
Libralato Holdings Ltd (UK) of Manchester holds the exploitation rights of this engine, and it is understood that several interested parties have shown interest in the design and some discussions have taken place.
For the design of the engine see http://www.automotivecouncil.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Libralato-Engine-May-12.pdf
One of the principal applications could be in automotive where it could be applied as a hybrid range extender. In one application the engine could be driving one rear wheel while an electric motor drives the other rear wheel – the two being linked through the control system. Production is being seen as in the period 2015-2020, which seems very close for such a brand new concept. The gas turbine has yet to make its way onto the highway after all its years of development.
However, at this stage the most pressing issue is one of cautiously validating the current design during a period of prolonged testing. Among topics which will be under scrutiny will be those of the control system and the fuel injection system, as well as how to manage the internal dynamics of the engine.
The Libralato engine design has been a curiousity for a number of years, and under development for 25, but it is only in recent times that it has gained financial backing. ∎
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