Automotive

Tiny single-piston hydrogen engine repackages internal combustion

Tiny single-piston hydrogen en...
Aquarius moves forward with a hydrogen variant of its single-cylinder micro-engine
Aquarius moves forward with a hydrogen variant of its single-cylinder micro-engine
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Aquarius moves forward with a hydrogen variant of its single-cylinder micro-engine
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Aquarius moves forward with a hydrogen variant of its single-cylinder micro-engine
Aquarius has been developing and testing its single-piston linear engine for the better part of a decade
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Aquarius has been developing and testing its single-piston linear engine for the better part of a decade

Israel's Aquarius Engines this week gave the world a first look at the tiny hydrogen engine it hopes can supplant gas engine-generators and hydrogen fuel cells in future electrified vehicles. Weighing just 22 lb (10 kg), the simple engine uses a single moving piston to develop power. Beyond vehicles, Aquarius is developing the engine for use as an off-grid micro-generator.

First created in 2014, Aquarius' efficient single-piston linear engine has a single central cylinder in which the piston moves between two engine heads. In previous iterations, Aquarius used more conventional fossil fuels to create combustion, but now it's turning attention to emissions-slashing hydrogen. The company says Austrian engineering firm AVL-Schrick recently completed third-party testing, verifying that a modified version of the engine can operate purely on hydrogen.

"It was always our dream at Aquarius Engines to breathe oxygen into hydrogen technology as the fuel of the future," explains Aquarius chairman Gal Fridman. "From initial tests, it appears that our hydrogen engine, that doesn't require costly hydrogen fuel-cells, could be the affordable, green and sustainable answer to the challenges faced by global transport and remote energy production."

Beyond being small, lightweight and easy to transport, Aquarius' engine design is very simple and low-maintenance, employing just 20 total parts, of which only the single piston moves. It does not even require oil for lubrication, according to the company. The video below shows how the parts come together into a whole.

Aquarius_Technology

Aquarius' fossil fuel engine-generators are currently undergoing field testing in North America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. In January of this year, Aquarius announced completion of phase-one testing performed in conjunction with Finnish telecom giant Nokia. The parties are conducting ongoing testing on Aquarius micro-generators and remote management software.

Nokia hopes to install the Aquarius generators at remote communications towers, relying on Aquarius' accompanying software to monitor the output and efficiency of the generators from miles away. During phase two, Nokia and Aquarius are testing the micro-generators at pilot sites in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Poland and Singapore.

The potential for using cleaner-burning hydrogen as the fuel adds to the Aquarius engine's attractiveness, particularly in markets already striving to embrace hydrogen fuel solutions, such as Japan. Aquarius has recently created strategic partnerships with Japanese auto parts companies TPR and Musashi Seimitsu Industry Co. Ltd.

Source: Aquarius Engines

35 comments
35 comments
ppeter
Do I understand it correctly, they basically built a 2-stroke engine that makes double use of the eingine's displacement? Like, a 125 ccm engine with the power output of 250 ccm? That would certainly be great news for tiny airplaines and similar niche products, where engine weight is premium. But I somehow fail to see how the fuel efficiency of a 2-stroke eingine is supposed to compete with a fuel cell for non-niche products...
Malcolm Jacks
Im hoping that soon i will be able to upgrade my loveable 1997 Mazda MX 5 to a green engine at a reasonable cost.
Daishi
@ppeter, yes each half works like a 2 stroke in the way they combine intake and exhaust into the same cycle. The main difference seems to be that instead of having 2 separate pistons attached to a crank they have connected them back to back doing away with the crank case. It would mean using a linear generator instead of a rotary generator (and I don't know how they compare in efficiency) and it would have few moving parts.
martinwinlow
Perfectly daft. By the time you have paid for the H2 tank and associated gubbins to make this work, you could have just added twice the battery capacity - and still saved at least 50% of the cost. Weight might swing it for some applications but really, for those sorts of applications a full H2 fuel cell system would make much more sense... except that it doesn't and never will as battery technology will progress much too quickly for it to keep up - technically and financially - and H2 will simply get left behind and (finally) forgotten.
Magnus Hansson
We can see a piston moving freely to and fro, but how does it power anything
Robt
@ppeter I think the benefit is that fuel cells are ludicrously expensive while this engine is cheap and easy to both manufacture and maintain
Simon Redford
Linear free piston 2-stroke engine. Potentially interesting, but facts are very hard to find. On the website there is a hint that the output is 16kW but no indication whether this is the 10kg unit. Only other hint I could find is that it has 1000 hr maintenance periods, so OK for occasional use backup power, but less useful for continuous generation or CHP duty. Why not tell the world what conversion efficiency they can achieve? Lack of information makes me suspicious.
Brian M
@ppeter Its not about efficiency more about overall running costs. Its true that internal combustion engines aren't particularly efficient, but the big advantage over fuel cells is the cost saving of the fuel cells.

Given that hydrogen should be relatively cheap and green to produce in the near future, the efficiency could be viewed as less important than the cost of replacement hydrogen fuel cells or rechargeable batteries. Hence the advantage of this engine.

Of course technology advances can throw any argument of which is best out very quickly, but generally hydrogen power has a lot of things in its favour!
michael_dowling
Brian M : Hydrogen combustion in air produces nitrous oxides,potent green house gases,so it is not as clean as using hydrogen in a fuel cell,which only has water as the waste product.
Kpar
I am curious how this compares to the Liquid Piston engine. Liquid piston is (I believe) much lighter. And I am not convinced of the efficacy of H2 as a fuel. If the oxidizer is air, running a lean mixture gives you LOTS of NOx emissions.
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