Imagine an internal combustion engine that runs on solar-heated oil and water instead of gasoline. Sound crazy? Two Missouri-based inventors Ben Cooper and Matt Bellue have designed a non-traditional combustible engine that could provide clean energy once hooked up to a generator.
The inventors have already built a prototype they call HydroICE, short for Hydro Internal Clean Engine. Cooper and Bellue’s design begins with oil-heating mirrored parabolic solar collectors that would get the oil to between 400 and 700 degrees.
Just as gasoline is typically injected, so to the hot oil would be injected into the cylinder chamber of the engine. Then, microdroplets would become steam as soon as they touched the hot oil. The resulting steam turns the driveshaft by driving the piston downward.
At the bottom of the piston’s stroke, the oil and steam leave the cylinder and run through an oil/steam separator. After that, they return to their own reservoirs and can be reused within the closed loop system.
The HydroICE engine will be tested. To do this, the inventors converted a 31cc 2-stroke gas engine. Missouri State University and Missouri University of Science and Technology have agreed to provide peripheral hardware and to determine engine efficiency through extensive tests.
The HydroICE engine may have an efficiency of 15%, which could compete with photovoltaic panels. But HyrdoICE’s major advantage is cost. Cooper and Bellue’s system will most likely cost 25% less than a photovoltaic system, making it incredibly attractive and cost effective.