This 25,000 rpm pistonless engine shows ICE could have a future
The Omega 1 is a sealless rotary engine with very few moving parts and almost no losses in the combustion cycle
As much as we love piston engines, they’re horribly inefficient. You lose stacks of energy to heat, friction, and more, wasting much of the potential of that exploding fuel. A new engine design, however, aims to eliminate nearly all of the losses associated with internal combustion.
It’s the “Omega 1” from a company called Astron Aerospace. Invented by Matthew Riley, it’s a rotary engine, but it works very differently from a Wankel. For one thing, there are no apex joints. Or many sigils at all for that matter.
The design divides the four-stroke combustion cycle into two. On one half of the engine we have two “blade rotors” dealing with intake and compression, and another pair on the other side for combustion and exhaust. Two counter-rotating shafts run through the engine and these rotors, each synchronized by large gears.
These sprockets and their bearings are the only points of contact in the entire engine, therefore the only bits that require lubrication. Very tight tolerances are essential for the absence of rotor seals, as are the high rpms involved because there is “not enough time for air to leak out during operation,” says Astron.
There is also a supercharged air intake operating at extremely high pressure, which is said to be “an integral part of the combustion process”. Compared to a regular supercharger that might run at something like 15 psi on a production car, the Omega 1 forces air at over 200-300 psi.
See also: A new 10.6L 3-cylinder, 6-piston two-stroke diesel engine
Another interesting element is the “jump the fire” function. As you accelerate, the motor will fire on every rotation, but at cruising speed it will only burn when needed – “every five, 10, 50 rotations or whatever is needed”. Because of this and the generally efficient nature of the engine, the Omega 1 is said to offer “extremely low” emissions.
And now for the really fun part. Much like a Wankel engine, the Omega system is modular, so you can theoretically line up as many units as you like. A twin-motor stack, for example, would weigh around 150 kg and produce over 300 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque while consuming very little fuel. Oh, and it will rev up to 25,000 rpm. Suggested applications include generators, marine, aerospace and yes, recreational vehicles.
As the automotive industry pushes towards electrification, projects like this show that combustion engines in automobiles could have a future in some contexts. We have to caution Omega 1 that the idea seems to be at a fairly early stage, but regardless, it’s something to watch with interest.