A Modular Ecosystem That Evolved Around A Simple Diesel Engine

High volume commodity products are a foundation of hacking, we’ve built many projects around popular form factors like NEMA 17 stepper motors, 608 bearings, and 280 DC motors. Their high volume led to lower cost, which further increased popularity, and the cycle repeats. A similar thing happened to a style of single-cylinder diesel engine in China, and [Jalopnik] takes us through an exploration of these “Tuo La Ji” (tractor) machines.

Like many popular standards, circumstances elevated this style of engine to become more popular than its peers. Judging from the pictures, the idea is similar to NEMA 17 in that the core essence is a bolt pattern and an output shaft. Different manufacturers offer various capabilities within this space, and a wild assortment of machinery evolved to take advantage of this class of power source.

It starts with a set of wheels and handlebars to create a walk-behind farm tractor, something pretty common around the world. But this particular ecosystem grew far beyond that to many other applications, including full sized trucks with off-road capability that would embarrass most of the genteel SUVs cruising our roads today. They may not be fast, but they only needed to be faster and have longer endurance than beasts of burden to be effective as “a horseless horse”.

Due to factors such as poor crash safety, absence of diesel emission controls, and affordability of more powerful (and faster!) vehicles, these machines are a dying breed. But that won’t change the fact there was a fantastic amount of mechanical hacking ingenuity that had sprung up around this versatile engine building simple and effective machines. Their creativity drew from the same well that fed into these Indonesian Vespas.

Photo by [Brian Holsclaw] CC BY-ND 2.0

Are Powdered Metal Fuels Just A Flash In The Pan?

It’s no secret that fossil fuels are quickly becoming extinct. As technology charges ever forward, they are disappearing faster and faster. Many of our current dependencies on fossil fuels are associated with high-energy applications like transportation. Since it’s unlikely that global transportation will ever be in decline for any reason other than fuel shortage itself, it’s imperative that we find something that can replicate the high energy density of fossil fuels. Either that, or go back to the drawing board and change the entire scope of global transportation.

Energy, especially solar and wind, cannot be created all over the world. Traditionally, energy is created in situ and shipped to other places that need it. The proposed solutions for zero-carbon energy carriers—batteries and hydrogen—all have their weaknesses. Batteries are a fairly safe option, but their energy density is pretty poor. Hydrogen’s energy density is higher, but its flammability makes it dangerously volatile to store and transport.

Recently, a group of researchers at McGill University in Canada released a paper exploring the use of metal powders as our zero-carbon fuel of the future. Although metal powders could potentially be used as primary energy sources, the transitory solution they propose is to use them as secondary sources powered by wind and solar primaries.

Continue reading “Are Powdered Metal Fuels Just A Flash In The Pan?”

Hackaday Prize Entry: Open Source Diesel

There are plans for open hardware farming equipment that can be brought to third world countries to relieve the beasts of burden and increase the production of fields. Want an open source car? You can 3D print one. Just about anything you can strap a motor to has been replicated in open hardware; all you need to do is buy a motor and bolt it on.

But what about the motors themselves? For his entry to The Hackaday Prize, [Shane] is designing an open source engine. It’s small, it’s a two-stroke, and it’s diesel, but it’s completely open hardware; a great enabling project for all the open source dirt bikes and microcombines.

The design of [Shane]’s engine is based on the Junkers Jumo 205; a weird engine that had opposing pistons in one cylinder. This allows the engine to have variable compression, allowing for a wide variety of fuels to be used. If you have kerosene, that’ll work with this engine. French fry oil will as well. It’s exactly what you need for an engine that could be used for anything.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: