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New Engine Idea Enhances Efficiency

Disconnecting valves improve engine performance, Purdue University researchers find.

What would happen to an engine if the valve use were no longer linked to the piston? Purdue University researchers are asking that question and a computer model is showing that the resulting engine has the capability to boost efficiency by up to 20%.

In the traditional engine, valves are moved in relation to a spinning camshaft that's linked to a crankshaft turned by the pistons. That camshaft opens and closes the valves. The new method - called variable valve actuation - allows for significant improvements in conventional gasoline engine and diesel engines used in cars and trucks.

"We're talking about a major leap in engine technology that could be used in hybrid cars to make vehicles much more environmentally friendly and fuel stingy," comments Gregory M. Shaver, in a press statement about the new engine model. Shaver is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue.

This innovation may have as much impact as the common rail design used in diesel engines today that allows for computer controlled fuel delivery that boosts efficiency and cuts down on pollution.

With variable valve actuation, a computer would control the valve, reduce "fuel-rich" areas in the combustion chamber and provide for a more complete burn of the fuel - maximizing efficiency. The system could even be designed to reroute exhaust gases back into the combustion chamber to improve the pollution profile even more. And with this high level of control, the engine would be better suited to changing fuel mixes that might include more biofuels as well.

While still on the drawing board, this engine idea gains ground with the new computer model that allows improved tracking of engine performance for a future engine control system. The engines everyone uses today are already changing dramatically, this latest development could be a significant advancement, especially when used in a hybrid system.

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