Scientific improvements that create industries and save millions of lives often come at a price that isn’t revealed until much later. Leaded gasoline helped the automobile industry take off and synthesized Freon extended the lifespan of lifesaving vaccines, but they took an incredible toll on the environment.
Both were invented in the early 20th century by Thomas Midgley, Jr. After graduating from Cornell in 1911 with a degree in mechanical engineering, he worked briefly for National Cash Register where inventor Charles Kettering had just created the first electronic till. In 1916, Midgley started working for Kettering at Dayton Metal Products Company, which soon became the research division of General Motors.
Continue reading “Thomas Midgley, GM, and the Dark Side of Progress”
Radial engines are just plain cool – it’s inarguable that any tech that originated with early aviation is inherently awesome. But, what do you do when you want to build a radial engine in your dorm where a combustion engine would be inadvisable? For University of Washington students [Jeffrey Weng] and [Connor Lee] the answer was to power it with solenoids in place of the pistons.
The easiest way to approach a project like this would have been to use a microcontroller. A simple program running on an Arduino could have easily provided the timing to switch power to each solenoid in succession. [Jeffrey Weng] and [Connor Lee], however, took a much more interesting approach by controlling timing via a simple distributor. This works in the same way a spark distributor on a combustion engine would have worked, except it’s actually providing the power to actuate the solenoids instead of providing just an ignition spark.
Also impressive is what they were able to accomplish with such basic tools. Those of us who are lazy and have access to more expensive tools would have just 3D printed or CNC cut most of the parts. Either [Jeffrey Weng] and [Connor Lee] didn’t have access to these, or they wanted to increase their machining street cred, because they created all of the parts with simple tools like a band saw and drill press. We’ve seen some beautiful engine projects before, but what this build lacks in objective beauty it makes up for in ingenuity.
Continue reading “Radial Solenoid Engine is Undeniably Cool”
The sheer beauty of this build is blinding. We enjoy keeping a minimalistic household — not quite on the level of [Joe MacMillan] but getting there — yet this would be the thing we choose as decoration. It’s a hand-built 2-stroke Engine designed specifically to make the combustion process visible rather than locking it away inside of a block of metal.
If you have a nagging feeling you’ve seen this before it’s because the amazing craftsmanship is unforgettable. A couple years back we looked at the 4-stroke engine also built by [Huib Visser]. This new offering does away with the belt, leaving a build that is almost entirely glass and metal polished to a high sheen. The glass cylinder contains the combustion, pushing the graphite piston to drive the fly-wheel. A passing magnet triggers the spark plug to ignite the white-gas fuel, all of which is well-illustrated in the video after the break.
This is not for sale, which doesn’t surprise us. How hard would it be to part with something of such beauty especially knowing you created that beauty? But don’t worry, you can definitely build your own. Just make sure to set the bar lower for your first half dozen tries. We’ve even seen engine builds using hardware store parts.
Continue reading “2-Stroke Engine too Beautiful to Behold”
As a beginner’s step towards the famous Top Gear V8 coffee table, [English Tea] converted a small single cylinder engine into a desk lamp that uses the mechanical actuation of the piston to turn on and off. No able-bodied engines were harmed in the making of this hack as this one was already a corpse — perfect for [Mr. Tea] to prop up and display in his home.
Regrettably lacking a lightsaber, he settled for 30 minutes on a hacksaw to split the cylinder followed by some sandblasting to clean all the rust, paint, and gunk off all the internals. Once it was clean he repainted it himself. Between paint and clearcoats, he figured he added 20 layers onto the metal.
Next he created some wood sections and wet-formed leather over them which he later dyed black. Caring less about a new Walmart lamp than the motor, he vivisected it for its electrical components and wired it up.
Without a crank on the shaft it looks a bit awkward to twist the lamp on or off, but, only enough pressure is needed to poke a latching
momentary pushbutton and it seems to work just fine. For any readers looking to make their own, dead compressors and gas power tools are fairly common and nearly free at the junkyard. Engine-based projects can be intimidating to start if you need a working engine again at the end. Becoming familiar with them on a project like this where you are mostly only using the engine as a building material is an easy way to get your foot in the door.
See the video after the break of the piston bumping the light on and off.
Continue reading “Bisected Engine Makes Cute Lamp – Still Cranks”
Anyone can strap a two-stroke engine on a bicycle to create a moped. But [robinhooodvsyou] has created something infinitely more awesome. He’s built an inverted open crank engine on a 10 speed bicycle. (YouTube link) As the name implies, the engine has no crankcase. The crankshaft, camshaft, and just about everything not in the combustion chamber hangs out in the open where it can be seen and appreciated.
[robinhooodvsyou] started with an air-cooled Volkswagen cylinder. He filled the jug with a piston from a diesel car. Camshaft, flywheel, valves, and magneto are courtesy of an old Briggs and Stratton engine. The cylinder head, crankshaft, pushrods, and the engine frame itself are all homemade.
Being an open crank engine, lubrication is an issue. The crankshaft’s ball bearing is lubricated by some thick oil in a gravity fed cup. Even though the engine is a four-stroke,[robinhooodvsyou] adds some oil to the gas to keep the rings happy. The camshaft and connecting rod use Babbit bearings. While they don’t have an automatic oiling system, they do look pretty well lubricated in the video.
Starting the engine is a breeze. [robinhooodvsyou] created a lever which holds the exhaust valve open. This acts as a compression release. He also has a lever which lifts the entire engine and friction drive off the rear wheel. All one has to do is pedal up to cruising speed, engage the friction drive, then disengage the compression release.
We seriously love this hack. Sure, it’s not a practical vehicle, but it works – and from the looks of the video, it works rather well. The unmuffled pops of that low 4:1 compression engine reminds us of old stationary engines. The only thing we can think to add to [robinhooodvsyou’s] creation is a good set of brakes!
Continue reading “The DIY Open Crank Engine Moped”
The Engine Control Unit is a vital part of every car made in the last 40 years or so, but unlike just about every other electronic device, open source solutions just don’t exist. [Andrey] is trying to change that with rusEfi, a project that hopes to bring together hardware, software, and engines in one easy to use package. He’s even designed Frankenstein, a full ECU ‘shield’ for the STM32F4 Discovery dev board.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen [Andrey]’s adventures in building an ECU. An earlier board was also powered by the STM32F4 Discovery, and he actually drove his 96 Ford Aspire around using this homebrew ECU. It was only firing on two cylinders, but that was only a loose solder connection.
Of course building an ECU from scratch is worthless without the proper firmware that balances and engine’s fuel economy and performance. This sort of testing must be done empirically and [Andrey] has a Kickstarter going for the development of this firmware and some dyno time. No rewards, but it’s worth chipping in a buck or two. I did.
Continue reading “Frankenstein, The Open Source Engine Control Unit”
You thought we forgot about your favorite Hackaday comment game, didn’t you? Well, not only is ‘Real or Fake?’ back with a new installment, but this time it concerns everybody’s favorite impossibility: perpetual motion machines! It’s likely that you’ve already seen the photos of Brazilian energy group RAR Energia’s generator “powered exclusively by gravity” (translated). If you’re rolling your eyes and exclaiming “this is so last year..” you might want to scroll down to the bottom of the page; they’re still building this monstrosity and they’ve included some diagram images. Perhaps someone who reads Portuguese can better translate the claim that the devices are “demonstration models with capacity to generate 30kW.” Oh, didn’t you know? There are two of them now: one in Brazil that is presumably functioning, and a second under construction in Gilman, Illinois.
Now, before you all scream “Photoshopped,” take a gander at a FotoForensics analysis of one of the images, where ELA (error level analysis) seems to indicate consistent levels of compression. EXIF data shows the pictures were shot with a Sony DSC-WX5 and saved in PhotoScape. It may be simpler than that: you can easily recognize the same employees in different shots from different angles, and there are quite a lot of photos. RAR Energia’s most recent endeavor—a second machine in Gilman Illinois—seems to have been erected in the past two months. The Gilman warehouse is located on property belonging to bio-diesel manufacturing firm Incobrasa Industries (named a “Company of the [RAR Energia] group” on the RAR Energia site). Here’s a little internet sleuthing for your consideration: a photo of the completed warehouse and a Google maps link to the location in question (40.763176, -88.012706). Note the distinctly shaped building in the background (another view here, during construction), which can be found due south of the location indicated in the Google maps link. We’re not suggesting that you completely rule out image manipulation, but if it’s Photoshopped, it’s a damned elaborate job.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any videos demonstrating motion or any explanation for how the system works other than vagaries about perpetual energy. So, does this thing exist—and did this company really build two of them? Does it work…or, well, somehow do something?