No, this isn’t Weird Engine Wednesday, although this would certainly be a great candidate for it. This new internal combustion engine design — the Omega 1 — from Astron Aerospace is a unique combination of parts, theories, and ideas which borrow from (and ostensibly improve upon) several different engine types.
At first glance it looks like some variant of the rotary engine, and while not a Wankel-style engine, it is probably still classified as a rotary engine. But unlike any other rotary-style engine we’re aware of this unique beast is a split-cycle engine like the Scuderi engine, in which intake and compression happen in one section while combustion and exhaust happen in another.
How It Works
First, let’s dive into how the engine works. Using a method that is somewhat reminiscent of a positive displacement supercharger, the engine utilizes two pairs of what the company calls “Isolator Rotors” — one pair for intake and compression, and the other for power and exhaust. Each pair of rotors has a single section with a protuberance and a corresponding cavity. During the engine’s rotation, the male rotor acts as the piston to create intake suction and compression, while the female rotor acts as the anvil to direct the compressed charge into the pre-combustion chamber.
From the pre-chamber, a rotary plate valve allows the compressed charge, with a spritz of fuel from the injector, to pass over into the combustion chamber, where the mating and separating of the exhaust rotor pair have created a vacuum. The rotary plate then immediately seals off the two halves from each other, and the compressed fuel/air mix is ignited in the “male” rotor section of the power and exhaust rotor pair. The expanding combustion gasses create force on the backside of the “paddle” around its travel while the leading edge of the paddle expels the previous cycles spent gasses.
The whole point of developing this new internal combustion engine is that Astron believes it can create spectacular performance from a very compact powerplant, with the ability to use a variety of combustible fuels, while producing near-zero actual emissions. The engine’s design is similar to the Mazda Wankel engines, where you can create engines with multiple rotor sets, to increase the output of the package.
Astron says the base unit, which is two pairs of rotors (one for intake and compression, the other for power and exhaust) weighs 35 pounds and will make 160 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, while being able to idle at 1,000 rpm and spin all the way to 25,000 rpm, thanks to the lack of any kind of additional combustion seals (apex seals, piston rings, etc.), instead relying solely on tight tolerances to seal the rotors in the engine.
The firm also explains that the engine can “idle” at operating speed, and only inject fuel when needed, in a system very similar in theory to the various multiple displacement systems currently on vehicles — dubbed “Skip Fire” — in order to improve fuel efficiency.
The list of claims the manufacturer makes about the performance and capabilities of the Omega 1 engine definitely sounds incredible on paper. The engine was initially aimed at being a range extender for turbine engines and potentially electric hybrid vehicles, but Astron now appears to be aiming at anything that uses an internal combustion engine.
Will this engine actually be what they claim? Who knows. But from a technical standpoint, it’s always fun to look at new designs.