DARPA has found a single, hyper-efficient motor that they think could power large UAVs, electrical generators, and robots. The engines are so small and so efficient, that soldiers could carry powerful generators in their rucksacks.
DARPA signed a contract with LiquidPiston for nearly $1 million to develop an engine that is much lighter than current military generators and that could generate the same amount of electricity for half as much JP-8 fuel.
"Today's diesel/JP-8 engines and generators are extremely heavy," Dr. Nikolay Shkolnick, a co-founder of LiquidPiston, said in an press release. "For example, a typical 3kW heavy-fuel generator weighs over 300 pounds, requiring six people to move it around. LiquidPiston's engine technology may enable a JP-8 generator of similar output weighing less than 30 pounds that could fit in a backpack."
The engine would get its outstanding efficiency through a patented "High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle," design that is a large departure from piston engines. LiquidPiston holds the patent for this type of engine. See how it works at 0:40 in the video below.
The design allows the engine to capture much more of the energy in the fuel and reduces the amount of energy lost as heat, noise, and exhaust.
And, with only two moving parts, the engines are much quieter and stealthier than those they would replace.
"Our engine has no vibration at all and it's a lot quieter," Alexander Shkolnik, the president of LiquidPiston, told MIT News while discussing LiquidPiston's smallest engine. "It should be a much nicer user experience all around."
If everything works out, forward operating bases and UAVs would get much quieter, generators could be delivered to outposts more easily, and the need for convoys in theater would be reduced as fuel requirements dropped.