Lock up your flywheels, folks, an American inventor is coming after them. Randy Moore of RK Transportation is working on an idea that replaces an engine's flywheel with a lightweight rotor with embedded magnets, to apply little pulses of electromagnetic torque just when they're needed in search of easier acceleration.

The problem, as Moore sees it, is everything that happens between the "bangs" of a four-stroke engine cycle. The power stroke sends the piston downward with considerable energy, but then the exhaust stroke, intake stroke and compression stroke all drag on the system.

The inertia and weight of a flywheel can help keep the whole thing spinning, and smooth out the power delivery somewhat. But inertia works both ways; the heavier the flywheel, the harder it is to accelerate as well as decelerate, so the engine might keep happily rolling through the three non-power strokes, but it's also going to struggle to pick up speed freely when you're on the gas.

Moore's idea is fairly simple: replace the flywheel with a lightweight disc, embed magnets in that disc, and hit those magnets with electromagnetic pulses to replace flywheel inertia with electric torque. Effectively replacing the flywheel with a rotor for a low-power electric motor that can apply torque in a precise and useful way.

Moore wants to hit the crank with a little burst of torque right when the piston's at bottom dead center before the compression stroke, giving it a helping hand to squeeze the air-fuel mixture before the power stroke. He sees his system as being maximally useful at low RPMs, chiefly under acceleration. At cruising speeds, coils in the housing could start to drop out and let the engine work by itself, or even start operating in reverse to charge up the system's own batteries or capacitors.

One interesting application might be in a small chainsaw engine, for example, which could perhaps benefit from a bit of electric help when the motor starts to bog down under heavy load. Others could include small motorcycle and scooter motors, or potentially race cars that could benefit from flywheel-free rapid acceleration.

The device is currently back at the "laboratory" stage after things didn't go so well with the first prototype, which was built around a faulty "cheap foreign-built engine." Moore tried using a lightweight plastic plumbing part to hold the rotating magnets, and the entire thing ended in a "spectacular explosion." Some of the magnets are reportedly still at large.

In a blog post that, curiously, chiefly outlines his previous failures in working with engines, Moore says he plans to revisit the idea of a prototype once he's got the time and courage to give it another crack. He's got a patent on the idea, and is looking for collaboration partners. Perhaps the New Atlas brains trust can chime in with some advice?

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