The little engine that could: Father & son create 'highest power per unit of weight' motor

© LiquidPiston
The admittedly ambitious father-and-son team of Nikolay and Alexander Shkolnik are pursuing what they hope to be the most compact, fuel-efficient, low-noise combustion engine in the world.

Nikolay Shkolnick told RT in an interview that the engine is believed to have achieved the "highest power per unit of weight" thanks to the novel thermodynamic cycle he co-invented with his son.

"This is the major advantage of this engine because physics defines how well an engine's going to work," he said. "And, according to our calculations — it has been published and checked and rechecked a number of times — if the thermodynamic cycle holds true, then the engine will be the most efficient engine."

The LiquidPiston X-mini engine is a rotary engine but with "a fundamentally different thermodynamic cycle, architecture and operation," the LiquidPiston website says. The X-mini engine operates on a "compression-ignition HEHC (high-efficiency hybrid cycle)," an improved thermodynamic cycle that helps enable max fuel efficiency. The engine's two basic moving parts, the shaft and the rotor, allow it to come in a compact size and operate with little vibration or noise, the company says.

The engine is scaleable from 1 horsepower to more than 1,000 horsepower, the Connecticut-based company says.

The LiquidPiston engine has been in development for eight years, the company says, and the LiquidPiston team has "a good two years ahead of us to put this engine into production," Shkolnick said.

"The engine will first probably start in a smaller application, such as generators, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopter drones, lawn and garden space, smaller applications," he said. "We will then gradually move into larger horsepower applications. Our engine is technically scaleable to thousands of horsepower. Of course we haven't done it yet, but there is nothing theoretically that prevents us from doing that."

Engine efficiency, he said, is one goal of LiquidPiston's work. We "want to build the most efficient, the most compact, the less noisy, less polluting engine, the best engine in the world. We are ambitious, that's true," Shkolnick said.

"But also the second part of the equation is financial success. We will build a company that sets itself to succeed financially either by licensing the technology to multiple entities or being acquired by a bigger organization. But there is no talk about this, it's all in the future."

Shkolnick said his team is cautiously optimistic about what is next for the X-mini engine.

"Right now, this is the first version of our engine that we took out of the lab and put it in a specific application," Shkolnick said, referring to a go-kart that was powered by one of LiquidPiston's engines. 

"But it's just proving the viability of the engine. There's still a lot of work ahead of us to prove the efficiency is indeed the highest efficiency in the world."