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A Real “Back To The Future” Engine Meets Mark Twain

| Wednesday September 17th, 2008 | 1 Comment

Picture%2010.jpgDo you remember in the film Back To The Future, when the doctor came back with an updated car that could be powered by trash? Well it seems that that’s now not so far fetched, if the makers of the Cyclone Green Revolution steam engine have their way.
“Excuse me, steam engine?” I can hear you saying. Yes. It’s an external, rather than the typical internal combustion engine. The heat created while burning the fuel acts on deionized water inside the engine, heating it up enough so that the resulting high pressure steam turns all the pistons, etc, creating power. Apparently, since the combustion is external to the engine, it can use nearly anything as fuel – liquid or gaseous. They claim that in initial tests, they used fuels derived from orange peels, palm oil, cottonseed oil, and chicken fat.


In one sentence, they encapsulate what’s wrong with our current energy paradigm, “This is a question of supply and disposal… where we get our energy, and what happens when we’re done with it.”
With this engine, their aim is to make nearly anything a fuel source, even in combinations not typically possible, so that we can use what’s easily available, rather than overusing what’s less and less so, or depending on unreliable sources for it.
Now let’s say this is all possible, what about the emissions? Basically, they’re engineering this so that it can, via it’s rotating air flow (thus the Cyclone in the name) enable a more thorough mixing of air and fuel, thereby creating less exhaust. Rather then simply burning and emitting, the engine is designed to conserve what would be waste heat and use it to generate additional power. What does come out is significantly cooler then typical engines, further reducing emissions.
According to an article in Popular Science, “Steam engines can convert up to 46 percent of incoming energy into torque. Most gas-powered internal combustion engines, in contrast, are only about 25 percent efficient…..unburned fuel sits in the combustion chamber until the engine fires up again, and eventually nearly all the waste particles and unused fuel are incinerated.”
And get this: The Cyclone Green engine is designed to work without a transmission, oil pump, oil (it’s water lubricated, of course) or radiator.
You may at this point be thinking this sounds a bit too good to be true, and smells like a new Perpetual Motion Machine. I’d have been inclined to agree, were it not for the fact that it won the Distinguished Automotive Engineering Award from the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Where can it be used? They have engines capable of powering everything from a weed eater to a commuter train. The first commercial application will be with lawnmowers and the like. Imagine the positive impact just that would have.
Readers: What other energy innovations in the works have you seen lately? Anybody have experience with these Green Cyclone Engines? Any engineers out there that think this is hooey?

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.


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  • Steve N. Lee

    It seems that every week someone somewhere is building a device that can burn virtually anything to produce more efficient energy. Excellent.
    I’ve read of ventures all over the world, from the Far East to the ‘far west’, Hawaii, where a power station is actually being built now that will run on people’s organic garbage – just like the DeLorean in Back To The Future.
    If that 46% efficieny is correct, this really could be a major step forward in providing cleaner energy from an alternative fuel source – the best of both worlds.
    But before we all get too excited, yes, Paul, I’d be interested to see what engineers say about this – is it real or is it just pie in the sky?
    Let’s hope it’s real!
    Steve N. Lee
    author of eco-blog http://www.lionsledbysheep.com
    and suspense thriller ‘What if…?’