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New intercooler approach for internal combustion engines

Country of Origin: Italy
Reference Number: TOIT20170511002
Publication Date: 31 May 2018

Summary

An Italian expert in refrigeration equipment has developed and patented a new approach for integrating an intercooler system in turbocharged engines, with advantages over current state of the art. Technical cooperation and license agreements are searched with enterprises in the automotive sector or chilling/air-conditioning sector for carrying out a more thorough analysis on prototypes, evaluate market potential, explore possible licensing.

Description

An Italian expert in refrigeration equipment has been working for many years in this sector developing special skills. He has patented a new application in the automotive field for integrating an intercooler system in turbocharged engines, with advantages over current state of the art.
Despite the ever growing popularity of electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, the sector of personal mobility and of freight still quests for traditional fuel-fed engines, with optimum performances in terms of efficiency, low pollution, high power-to-weight ratio, reliability and small size.
Some of these goals can be reached by supercharged engines, in which the air is compressed before entering the combustion chamber. The most common approach gets mechanical energy for compression from a turbine placed in the exhaust line, realising the so called turbo-compressor scheme.
Turbo engines call to mind mainly sports cars. However today's trucks, buses, construction machinery and ships are equipped by turbochargers. Car engines will depend more and more on them, attracting keen attention as a response to economic and environmental issues.
Just to give an example the popular (in Italy) Fiat 500 in its version equipped with turbocharger exhibits 10% overall weight reduction, 30% savings in fuel consumption, while maintaining the same horsepower as the bigger engine (1400 cc) model.
A further step ahead is achievable by the addition of an intercooler: an air cooling unit placed just after the compressor. Thermodynamics laws, together with compressor losses, generate extra heat leading to a significant rise in inlet air temperature. In the absence of an intercooler, adverse effects may develop such as engine overheating, knocking and reduced lifetime, drawbacks particularly severe in hot and harsh climates.
While breakthroughs are not foreseen in engine basic design (pistons, spark, diesel, injection) the area of compressors and coolers is still in an explorative phase and is launching on the market new solutions including electricity driven chargers and active cooling, so that the new generations of "traditional" vehicles will likely integrate these approaches. For example Audi planned to introduce its new SQ5 Diesel car equipped with a single electric powered compressor, giving a 9% horsepower while reducing fuel consumption.
The invention proposed here deals with an intercooling apparatus providing active cooling by way of an electric powered refrigerator with its own coolant fluid. Despite the basic idea being very simple, the potential for improvement and the expected advantages are quite remarkable.
A survey of the state of the art as well as of european and international patents, shows that no attempts have been made so far for building and integrating an electric powered refrigerator dedicated to the solely purpose of feeding an intercooler. Other embodiments of this kind of invention show differences from the present one in aspects such as: mixed systems (intercooling integrated with passengers air conditioning), use of absorption refrigerators, mechanically driven refrigerators, Peltier cells, etc.
Just few years ago an electric driven intercooler refrigerator could appear a nonsense. But the electric motor sector underwent terrific developments made possible by Neodymium magnets and low-loss switching inverters. New possibilities for tailored solutions in the automotive sector are opened by the use of an electric refrigerator with its separate coolant circuit, thanks to the freedom of placing both these units in suitable positions, preferably away from engine heat.
Technical cooperation and license agreements are searched with enterprises in the automotive sector or chilling/air-conditioning sector for carrying out a more thorough analysis and testing on prototypes, assess the market opportunities and check the interest in acquiring the technology.

Advantages and Innovations

Obvious advantages are the ones already intrinsic in the compressor / intercooler design, notably:
- higher engine efficiency, low pollution, high power-to-weight ratio, improved reliability thanks to low inlet air temperature, smaller engine size

Further advantages referable to the proposed invention are:
- lightweight and small construction of the cooling unit, particularly when the refrigeration circuit is equipped with a modern compact electric motor
- active cooling of the inlet supercharged air may result in an un-bulky heat absorber with reduced drag on the air inflow, so reaching an even better engine performance compared to traditional intercoolers
- lack of the drawbacks of refrigeration motor directly connected to the engine, for example possibility to better modulate the cooling effect in relation to true power demand, and not to engine r.p.m.
- greater flexibility in the placement of the units (motor and coolant fluid radiator)
- lower losses in comparison to a mechanically driven unit, since no extra rotating shaft and pulley are needed
- easily customisable for adaptation to different engines: only the cooling part needs to be redesigned, not the electric motor and the coolant radiator

The main innovation lies in the independent coolant fluid circuit powered with an electric motor dedicated to this particular task, and hence optimised for this application. The quest for optimisation of this component may constitute by itself a field of innovation, at least in the automotive sector. While modern non-automotive applications (such as air conditioners and refrigerators) already use inverter driven high efficiency electric motors, this approach is still unexplored for intercoolers.

Stage Of Development

Prototype available for demonstration

Requested partner

The partners searched are expected to carry out a more thorough analysis and make test on prototypes, assess the market opportunities and check the interest in acquiring the technology.

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