Russian Engineer Invents Revolutionary New Combustion Engine

Written by Pavel Kotlyar

Soviet-born scientist, Nikolai Shkolnik, has invented the world’s most powerful and efficient combustion engine, and patented it in the US.

In 1975 Russian physicist Nikolai Shkolnik left the Soviet Union for the U.S. after graduating from the Kiev Polytechnic Institute. russian engineFor 10 years he worked as a consultant for struggling innovation companies. Throughout these years, he was constantly preoccupied with one question – why are modern car engines so inefficient?

Shkolnik developed his own high-efficiency hybrid cycle (HEHC) engine, which became a key step towards his dream. He was helped by his son Alexander, who eventually graduated from MIT and had become an expert in system optimization.

Nikolai Shkolnik is convinced that, among other things, the education he received in the USSR helped his ambition to create a revolutionary engine.

“There are big differences between American engineers and those trained in Russia,” said Shkolnik. “American engineers are incredibly effective in what they do, and it usually takes two or three Russian engineers to replace one American. However, Russians have a broader view of things, which has to do with their education; at least in my time it did. They are capable of achieving goals with a minimum of resources.”

Blast from the past

The father and son inventors were inspired by the idea of a rotary engine, whose principles were first proposed in the mid-20th century by German inventor, Felix Wankel.

Ordinary piston engines have many rotating and moving parts, which reduces their efficiency. The Wankel engine, however, has an oblong chamber with a triangular rotor inside it, whose movements create different sections in the chamber where fuel is injected, compressed, burnt and released.

Despite their higher efficiency, rotary engines failed to win wide recognition because they were not very reliable and not environmentally-friendly.

Rotary engines reincarnated

The Shkolniks founded the LiquidPiston company and created their own version of a rotary engine where the rotor has the shape of a nut that revolves in a triangular chamber, thus resolving the shortcomings of the Wankel engine. In addition, the Shkolniks’ engine creates a so-called isochoric combustion that is fuel burning with the volume remaining constant, thus improving efficiency.

The inventors created five models of an absolutely new engine, one after another, the latest of which was first tested in June when it was installed on a sports cart. The tests lived up to all expectations.

Compact and powerful

The Shkolniks’ miniature engine weighs under two kilos, has a capacity of just three horsepower, and has an efficiency factor of 20 percent. By way comparison, a typical piston engine of the same displacement of 23 cubic centimeters has an efficiency factor of just 12 percent, while a piston engine of the same weight would generate just one horsepower.

Source: Press photoSource: Press photo

The efficiency factor of such engines improves dramatically with the increase in their volume. For example, the Shkolniks’ next engine will be a 40-horsepower diesel motor. Its efficiency will be 45 percent, which is higher than the best diesel engines in modern trucks. At the same time, it will weigh just 13 kg, while equivalent piston engines currently weigh about 200 kg.

In the future, the Shkolniks’ compact and powerful engines are planned to be used in light drones, hand power saws and electric generators.

DARPA money

To date, the Shkolniks’ startup has received $18 million in venture investment, including $1 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

U.S. aviation mostly uses JP-8 fuel, and the military wants all military hardware to run on it, which incidentally, can be used by diesel engines. These engines, however, are rather bulky, which is why DARPA is taking a close look at the Shkolniks’ designs.

Read more at russia-insider.com

Comments (1)

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    Jerry L Krause

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    “Nikolai Shkolnik is convinced that, among other things, the education he received in the USSR helped his ambition to create a revolutionary engine.”

    “There are big differences between American engineers and those trained in Russia,” said Shkolnik. “American engineers are incredibly effective in what they do, and it usually takes two or three Russian engineers to replace one American. However, Russians have a broader view of things, which has to do with their education; at least in my time it did. They are capable of achieving goals with a minimum of resources.”

    Shkolnik’s comments need to be thoughtfully considered. It alerted me to a change which was occurring in the teaching of the fundamental physical sciences—physics and chemistry—in the USA only shortly before Shkolnik graduated, in 1975, from Kiev Polytechnic Institute with a physics major. Beside this change in USA education there was a competition between Russia and USA related to the ‘space’ rate and this competition was bankrupting Russia. And during this time the electronic computer was being developed and within a decade or so personal computers became common in the USA.

    However, the primary purpose of this comment is to review the change in the teaching of physics and chemistry that was occurring in North America shortly before Shkolnik graduated. In the preface to their 1957 textbook, Physics, J. S. Marshall and E.R. Pounder (McGill University, Montreal) wrote: “This textbook covers the major branches of physics at a level suitable to the first and second years of a University course. Sufficient material is included for a two-year course, but it is felt that the book will serve as a text for a one-year introductory course by judicious omission of the more difficult parts. … Calculus is not needed for an understanding of the text.”

    In the preface to his 1955 textbook, College Chemistry 2nd Ed., Linus Pauling wrote: In the preparation of the second edition of this book an effort has been made to increase the clarity of the presentation of the subject. [Which had to be an admission that the 1st Ed. lacked clarity] The first part of the book has been largely revised in such a way that the facts, concepts, and theories of chemistry are introduced more gradually and more systematically than in the first edition. Some new, rather simple illustrative exercises are given in the text, immediately following the sections that they illustrate. The exercises at the ends of the chapters have also been considerably revised, with elimination of some of the more difficult ones.”

    However, in the preface to his 1964 textbook, College Chemistry 3rd Ed., Pauling wrote: “During the last decade the science of chemistry has continued to change. Descriptive chemistry, the tabulation of the observed physical and chemical properties of substances, is still and important part of chemistry; with each passing decade, however, it becomes possible to correlate these facts in terms of theory in a more and more satisfactory manner. The theories of greatest value in modern chemistry are the theories of atomic and molecular structure, quantum theory (quantum mechanics), and statistical mechanics. I believe that the concepts involved in these theories can be learned by the beginning student of chemistry sufficiently well for him to apply them in correlating and understanding the facts of descriptive chemistry. Moreover, the fundamental experiments upon which these theories are based can be understood by the beginning student. The theories in their detailed mathematical treatment can then be studied later.”

    In the 1961-1962 academic year, the physics department at Caltech, began an educational experiment. About which Richard Feynman, in his preface of The Feynman Lectures On Physics Vol. I, wrote: “The special problem we tried to get at with these lectures was to maintain the interest of the very enthusiastic and rather smart students coming out of the high schools and into Caltech. They have hear a lot about how interesting and exciting physics is—the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and other modern ideas. By the end of two years of our previous course, many would be very discouraged because there were really very few grand, new, modern ideas presented to them. They were made to study inclined planes, electrostatics, and so forth, and after two years it was quite stultifying. The problem was whether or not, we could make a course which would save the more advanced and excited student by maintaining his enthusiasm.”

    “The question, of course, is how well this experiment has succeeded. My own point of view—which, however, does not seem to be shared by most of the people who worked with the students—is pessimistic. I don’t think I did very well by the students. When I look at the way the majority of the students handled the problems on the examinations, I think that the system is a failure.”

    Regardless of what others thought, we must accept Feynman’s honest assessment of this documented failure of the majority of students to perform as they were reasonably expected to perform as the consequence of this educational experiment. During my academic studies chemistry has been my major and physics my first minor. So I claim to be aware of ‘the’ significant difference between chemists and physicists. Chemists ‘generally’ understand the important consequences of what they have observed, which the quantum theory (quantum mechanics) and statistical mechanics simply explain without understanding the detailed mathematical treatment that was required as Feynman taught in his lectures on physics at Caltech. Chemists trust the many theories of physics that physicists, like Einstein and Feynman and the giants before them, have given them (us).

    The key word is “generally”; not a specialization, which in some cases might allow “two or three Russian engineers to be replaced by one American.”

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