Radial engine power system

A power plant utilizing a radial rotary engine and incorporating onboard energy storage. The engine is of the type utilized in pre-World War I aircraft, but with certain modifications. The energy storage system exploits the flywheel effect inherent in these engines and optionally also includes auxiliary energy storage in other forms, such as compressed air or electrical. Using a continuously variable transmission enables advantageous use of engine inertia in a coast down mode of driving.

Skip to: Description  ·  Claims  · Patent History  ·  Patent History

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. ______ filed on May 13, 2004 as Attorney Docket Number D2GRE001.11.


The present invention is directed to a power system including a radial internal combustion engine serving as a prime mover, and an associated energy storage system which cooperates with the radial engine.


Internal combustion engines have long been used to power transport vehicles on land, in and on water, and in the air. Initially, internal combustion engines were directly connected to wheels, propellers, and other elements of a vehicle which acts on an environmental medium to effect propulsion. In some applications, power generated by internal combustion engines has been transformed before bearing on the propulsion effecting elements of the vehicle. For example, diesel electric railway locomotives have diesel engines serving as prime movers which power generators, which generators in turn supply electrical power to drive motors which rotate wheels. In a further development, internal engines have been utilized to store power onboard a vehicle. A well known example is that of electric boats, particularly of the submarine type. Submarine type vehicles have both liquid fuel tanks and also storage batteries. Output of the internal combustion engine can be exploited to rotate a propeller or to charge the batteries.

The recent automotive development of so-called hybrid vehicles has demonstrated that remarkable fuel savings are enabled by combining internal combustion and electric power plants in a transport vehicle. A hybrid vehicle has both an internal combustion engine and also an electric motor which may, depending upon the specific design, may individually and collectively be brought to bear on propulsion of the vehicle. Arrangement of different hybrid schemes vary, but one element all hybrid schemes have in common is that power demanded of an internal combustion engine over time is far more constant than is the case with vehicles wherein an internal combustion engine is not supplemented by electrical power.

Considering now the internal combustion engine which is selected for use with hybrid vehicles, contemporary practice is limited to those engines wherein at least one and usually a plurality of pistons are reciprocatingly disposed within bores or cylinders formed in a stationary structural engine block. Each piston is operably connected to a rotary crankshaft by a connecting rod. The output of these conventional engines is one or more rotating shafts, which are drivably connected to a suitable transmission, to a generator, or to another element for inducing propulsion. While these engines are entirely operable, they fail to exploit certain characteristics which are available in internal combustion engines. One of these characteristics is use of the flywheel effect, wherein inertia of a relatively large or heavy rotating mass may be exploited to provide power independently of the energy being liberated in the combustion chambers, at least for a temporary period of time. While conventional engines can be fitted with suitably heavy flywheels or other rotatable masses, this comes at a detrimental cost in conventional engines. That is, total weight of the engine is increased. There is a need for an engine which overcomes this situation while still providing the benefits of the flywheel effect.

A second characteristic is that while apparent reciprocation between piston and engine block occurs, this is not at the full cost in energy of periodically accelerating and decelerating the pistons within the engine block, as occurs in stationary block engines. Because the engine block defining the combustion cylinders rotates about an axis offset from that of the crankshaft to which the pistons are connected, at least a component of the apparent magnitude of reciprocation of the pistons occurs without axially accelerating each piston the full extent of the apparent stroke.

There exists an engine design which provides a relatively large rotating mass without arbitrarily increasing total engine mass, and which provides piston reciprocation which does not require periodic accelerations of each piston in alternating directions. In the early twentieth century, a radial rotary engine was developed for use with aircraft. This engine, which came to be known as the “Gnome” radial engine, essentially caused the engine block and cylinder heads to rotate about the crankshaft, which remained stationary relative to its associated vehicle. In practice, the crankshaft was secured in fixed relation to the fuselage of the aircraft. The propeller was fixed to the rotating engine block, which propeller and engine block then rotated as a unitary element. This arrangement was responsible for remarkable advances in early aircraft performance as regards aircraft velocity. A drawback of the engine in the environment of small aircraft was the gyroscope effect developed by the rotating mass, which introduced difficulties in steering the aircraft. As these small aircraft were combat aircraft, with maneuverability being a particularly prized characteristic, this early engine fell from favor despite some advantages which remain to this day. It would be desirable to utilize the advantages of a rotary block, reciprocating piston internal combustion engine in stored energy hybridized vehicles today.


The present invention combines the advantages of a rotary block, reciprocating piston internal combustion engine with an energy storage system to improve on benefits which accrue from today's hybrid vehicle arrangements. To this end, the present invention uses an improved rotary block radial engine in combination with one or more energy storage systems which can release power independently of power being developed within the engine by combustion of the fuel at any one instant in time. This engine provides a large rotating flywheel mass with no attendant increase in overall mass, minimal reciprocating load of pistons, and frequency in firing of a two stroke cycle engine.

Engine output is supplemented by stored energy. In one embodiment, this stored energy takes the form of compressed gasses which have been generated by the engine and stored. In another embodiment of the invention, electrical energy rather than compressed gasses may be generated and stored. Advantageously, when power from internal combustion is not required, combustion may be discontinued and the pistons may then be exploited to serve as a compressor.

When power is not required, a mechanical adjustment to the crankshaft is made. This adjustment permits the engine block and pistons to rotate without imposing a driving force on the crankshaft. Thus that energy originating in the engine and presently taking the form of kinetic energy may be conserved without dissipation which otherwise would be caused by decelerating the engine back to the stationary condition. As a consequence, combustion which would merely waste fuel when idling may be discontinued. The engine block with its relatively great mass would continue to rotate. This permits power to be derived from a flywheel effect and also eliminates the step of rotating the internal combustion engine when restarting it.

The engine is improved over the early aircraft engine in several preferred yet optional ways. One is that it is preferably although not necessarily operated as a diesel. A second is that an adjustment feature is provided which enables the engine to change its operation from that of an internal combustion engine to that of an air pump. A further improvement is that of making the crankshaft adjustable such that the pistons orbit ineffectually thereabout in tandem with the rotating engine block, so that the engine rotates without idling or active power production. Still another improvement is providing stepped pistons wherein an air suction chamber is provided which is greater in volume than the combustion chamber, thereby achieving a supercharged effect with no additional moving parts. Valves may be of the exposed port type, or alternatively of the poppet type. Where gas compression and storage is selected for energy storage, engine exhaust heat may be used to increase pressure of stored compressed gasses. Gasses may include both atmospheric air and also exhaust gas. A further improvement incorporates a recirculating lubrication system rather than the “one use” system originally provided wherein lubricant was ejected from the engine after a single introduction to a piston and cylinder assembly.

It is an object of the invention to utilize a rotary radial engine having a stationary crankshaft and minimal parasitic piston reciprocation losses as a prime mover in a hybrid power plant which incorporates selectively releasable energy storage.

It is another object to modify a rotary radial engine to enable engine block rotation to achieve a flywheel effect without idling.

It is a further object of the invention to modify a rotary radial engine to incorporate a recirculating lubrication system.

It is still another object of the invention to provide a supercharging feature with minimal increase in moving parts.

Still another object of the invention is to supplement stored energy in the form of compressed gasses with heat derived from waste exhaust heat.

It is an object of the invention to provide improved elements and arrangements thereof by apparatus for the purposes described which is inexpensive, dependable, and fully effective in accomplishing its intended purposes.

These and other objects of the present invention will become readily apparent upon further review of the following specification and drawings.


Various objects, features, and attendant advantages of the present invention will become more fully appreciated as the same becomes better understood when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference characters designate the same or similar parts throughout the several views, and wherein:

FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic, top plan view of a radial rotary engine of the type utilized in an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a cross sectional, enlarged detail view of the lower left of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a side elevational, enlarged detail view of components which are an alternative embodiment of components seen at the center of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a top plan view generally corresponding to FIG. 1, but drawn to reduced scale and showing the engine with its crankshaft moved to an adjusted position such that its rotational axis is coincident with the rotational axis of the cylinders.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged side elevational, mostly cross sectional detail view of an alternative embodiment of the invention, with the engine turned such that the crankshaft extends horizontally.

FIG. 6 is a block diagram of power producing, storing, and utilizing components of a motor vehicle according an embodiment of the invention wherein the novel system generates and stores electrical energy.

FIG. 7 is a side cross sectional view of a further embodiment of an engine according to the present invention.

FIG. 8 is a side elevational detail view of an optional auxiliary function of a rocker arm of another alternative embodiment.

FIG. 9 is a diagrammatic, partially cross sectional, side elevational view of an embodiment of the novel engine.

FIG. 10 is a cross sectional, top perspective view of a component seen near the top of FIG. 9.

FIG. 11 is a top plan view of an embodiment of an engine according to the present invention, with the crankshaft shown in cross section.

FIG. 12 is a block diagram of power producing, storing, and utilizing components of a motor vehicle according an embodiment of the invention wherein the novel system generates and stores energy in pneumatic form.


The present invention combines the attributes of a radial rotary engine 10 with an energy storage system. Referring first to FIG. 1, basic operation of a radial rotary engine will be summarized. A plurality of pistons 12, 14, 16 are pivotally connected to a multi-armed connecting rod 18 which in turn encircles a journal 20 of a crankshaft 22. Journal 20 is eccentrically located on crankshaft 22. Crankshaft 22 is located inside annular cylinder block 24. Three axes 26, 28, 30 are seen in the top plan view of FIG. 1. Axis 26 indicates the center line of journal 20. Axis 28 indicates the center line of crankshaft 22. Axis 30 indicates the rotational axis of cylinder block 24. In a radial rotary engine, crankshaft 22 is fixed to its associated vehicle (not shown in its entirety). As will be explained, cylinder block 24 rotates about stationary crankshaft 22. Pistons 12, 14, 16 and connecting rod 18 rotate in tandem with cylinder block, but in respective compound motions. Pistons 12, 14, 16 undergo apparent oscillation or reciprocation within their respective cylinders 32, 34, 36. This is a consequence of axis of rotation 30 of cylinder block 24 being spaced apart from axis 26 of crankshaft journal 22. At this point, it is important to note that pistons 12, 14, 16 are stepped, and hence have a T-shaped profile when viewed in the side elevation of FIG. 1. Cylinders 32, 34, 36 are correspondingly stepped and also exhibit T-shaped profiles. It is preferred that cylinders 32, 34, 36 be slightly canted in the direction of rotation (with the outermost section of the cylinder leading, and the innermost section of the cylinder trailing), rather than projecting in purely radial directions from axis of rotation 30. Connecting rod 18 both rotates about axis 26 as cylinder block 24 rotates, subject to accommodating piston position.

It will be appreciated that for visual clarity, certain necessary features of engine 10 are omitted from view in FIG. 1. Illustratively, gas flow valves and associated mechanisms, fuel supply, an ignition source, a cooling system, a lubricating system, and a supporting electrical system are all omitted from the diagrammatic view of FIG. 1. The embodiment of FIG. 1 is directed to a rotary equivalent of a two stroke engine having exposed port valves. As will be subsequently described, both the number of strokes of a single cycle of operation and also the types of valves may be varied to suit specific applications. In the embodiment of FIG. 1, cylinders 32, 34, 36 respectively have inlet passages 38, 40, 42 and outlet or exhaust passages 46, 48, 50.

In the embodiment of FIG. 1, cylinders 32, 34, 36 are stepped in order to achieve a supercharging effect. To this end, inlet passages 38, 40, 42, which open to the open interior 52 of annular cylinder block 24 or to any suitable location for drawing in ambient air, communicate with the relatively large portions of cylinders 32, 34, 36. As pistons 12, 14, 16 descend (which of course occurs sequentially rather than simultaneously), a vacuum develops in the lower portions 54, 56, 58 of cylinders 12, 14, 16. As each piston 12, 14, or 16 descends below (in the sense of approaching axis 30), it uncovers its associated inlet passage 38, 40, or 42. Air then flows into the exposed lower cylinder portion 54, 56, or 58. As each piston 12, 14, or 16 ascends (moving oppositely the direction of descent), volume of lower portions 54, 56, or 58 of cylinders 32, 34, or 36 decreases, thus compressing air contained therein.

Turning now to FIG. 2, further operation is described for only piston 12, it being understood that remaining cylinders 14 and 16 undergo similar motions and functions. Piston 12 carries on board a poppet valve 60 which seats on a shoulder 62 formed in the upper section 64 of piston 12. Upper section 64 is hollow, having an air passage 66 formed therein. A plurality of ports 68, 70 are formed in the wall of upper section 64 of piston 12. As pressure of compressed air contained within lower section 54 of cylinder 32 increases with ascent of piston 12, air is urged to flow into air passage 66. Pressure bears against the underside of poppet valve 60. At a predetermined pressure value, air pressure overcomes the resistance of spring 72, and flows into the upper portion 74 of cylinder 32. Spring 72 is urged to expand, and is retained by keeper 75 fixed to the stem of valve 60. Of course, at this point, projection of piston 12 into upper portion 74 obstructs exhaust passage 46. Air contained within upper portion 74 of cylinder 32, highly compressed, is then combusted by injecting fuel from a fuel injector 76. For diesel operation, a glow plug (not shown) could be supplied if desired.

When piston 12 descends, exhaust passage 46 is uncovered, as shown in FIG. 2. Exhaust is expelled by residual pressure, and is conducted to a suitable location for disposal. Again, during the same descent, vacuum develops in lower section 54 of cylinder 32. A new cycle may then begin.

FIG. 2 shows details of connection of piston 12 to connecting rod 18. A yoke 78 formed integrally with piston 12 supports a wrist pin 80. Wrist pin 80 is in turn rotatably engaged by a yoke 82 of connecting rod 18.

FIG. 3 shows an optional yet preferred embodiment of the invention. In the arrangement of FIG. 3, poppet valve 60, shown isolated from its supporting piston structure as described prior, is provided with a counterweight feature. Two counterweights 84, 86 are rotatably supported on pins 88, 90 fixed to the wall of an upper section of a piston 12, 14, or 16, and may pivot about respective axes 92, 94. Each counterweight 84 or 86 has an associated arm 96 or 98 which contacts keeper 75 of poppet valve 60. Opening of poppet valve 60 acts on arms 96, 98 in a manner causing counterweights 84, 86 to rotate on their respective support pins 88, 94. A compression coil spring 100 is compressed by this action. Spring 100 urges counterweights 84, 86 to bear on keeper 75 to close poppet valve 60. Valve 60 closes after air pressure is equalized on both sides thereof.

While engine 10 is capable of producing torque as a consequence of internal combustion during rotation, it is desired to exploit an inherent energy storage characteristic of radial rotary engines. That is that because the cylinder block rotates about stationary crankshaft 22, ordinary engine operation generates a flywheel effect which is much greater than for stationary block, rotary crankshaft engines (not shown). Inertia of this rotating mass can be conserved to a considerable degree without requiring internal combustion to proceed. Turning now to FIG. 4, engine 10 is shown in a state adjusted to permit cylinder block 24 to rotate in freewheeling fashion. That is, cylinder block 24, pistons 12, 14, 16, and connecting rod 18 rotate in tandem about rotational axis 30. This is accomplished by rotating crankshaft 22 until journal axis 26 is coincident with rotational axis 30. Referring momentarily again to FIG. 1, this situation is shown in broken line 102. Line 122 indicates the path taken by journal 20 as crankshaft 22 is rotated counterclockwise in the view of FIG. 1. Alternatively stated, under active power conditions, when pistons 12, 14, 16 undergo displacement within their respective cylinders 32, 34, 36, connecting rod 18 rotates coaxially about first axis of rotation 26. Under inertial power conditions, connecting rod 18 rotates coaxially about second axis of rotation 30, and no displacement of pistons 12, 14, 16 within respective cylinders 32, 34, 36 occurs.

Any suitable mechanism or rotation adjuster, some being known, may be employed to make this adjustment. Illustratively, a pivotal lever which may be moved manually or under power, such as by electrical power, may swing crankshaft 22 in an arcuate path established by guides. A purely illustrative example is shown in FIG. 11, wherein crankshaft 22 is slidably supported in a guide track 23 formed at the structure of engine 10 supporting cylinder block 24 (see FIG. 1). Crankshaft 22 engages guide track 23 in any suitable way, such as by having a cooperating T-slot configuration (not shown). Crankshaft 22 is engaged by a movable yoke 25 which moves arcuately together with crankshaft 22. Yoke 25 encloses an electric motor 27 having a double ended projecting output shaft 29, each end bearing a respective gear 31 or 33. Gears 31, 33 engage respective toothed racks 35, 37. When motor 27 operates, crankshaft 22 is moved along the path established by guide track 23. Motor 27 is reversible to enable selective shifting of crankshaft 22 between the active power and inertial conditions.

FIG. 5 shows an illustrative way of adjusting rotational orientation of crankshaft 104. In the embodiment of FIG. 5, there is shown an engine 103 which is generally similar to engine 10 of FIG. 1, except that engine 103 includes a crankshaft adjustment feature. Crankshaft 104 is supported at each end by a stout shaft 106 or 108 fixed to the vehicle. Crankshaft 104 has an offset journal 110 which is the structural and functional equivalent of journal 22 of FIG. 1. A connecting rod 112 which generally corresponds in structure and function to connecting rod 18 of FIG. 1 engages journal 110. At one end, crankshaft 104 has a ring gear 114 fixed thereto. A motor 116 having a geared shaft 118 engages ring gear 114. When an electrical power signal is received on a communication or power cable 120, motor 116 rotates ring gear 114 to a suitable degree to effect crankshaft adjustment described above and shown in FIG. 1.

The major rotating parts of engine 110 can function as a flywheel, without consuming fuel by idling, and with minimal frictional losses when crankshaft 104 is appropriately adjusted. This may be exploited to add to power available when conducting internal combustion, on its own should engine 110 be modified to include a mechanical connection (not shown) thereto in the idle mode, by incorporating electrical generating apparatus into the cylinder block (not shown) of engine 103, or in any other known way of exploiting inertia of a rotating mass.

FIG. 6 shows a diagram of a preferred application of engine 103. Engine 103 is controlled by an engine management computer or microprocessor 122. A continuously variable transmission 124 receives the rotary output of engine 103 and by suitable shafting or the like, transmits power to road wheels (shown symbolically as wheel 126) of a land going motor vehicle (not shown in its entirety). Use of a continuously variable transmission, in addition to the usual versatility provided thereby, enables vehicle speed to be maintained even as the engine rotating mass decreases, with or without combustion occurring. This effect is more pronounced in a radial rotary engine 10 or 103, more so than in a rotary crankshaft engine (not shown). Engine 103 incorporates a power output element (not separately shown), such as an onboard electrical generator, air compressor, or other power output element.

Power generated by engine 103 above that required for vehicle propulsion and associated support functions such as power for external signalling, exterior illumination, general interior lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, onboard audio and video equipment, communications equipment, and the like, may be apportioned to the auxiliary power output element by microprocessor 122. Conveniently, energy can be stored even while the vehicle is moving, without increasing or modifying engine rotational speed whenever available power at a selected engine speed exceeds demands for propulsive and support power. In the illustrative example of FIG. 6, engine 103 incorporates an electrical generator. Microprocessor 122 compares power required for propulsion, for example, by considering foot throttle control position, vehicle velocity, and the effective gear ratio of transmission 124, and imposes appropriate field excitation on the generator. A power control device such as switch 128 is then operated by a signal from microprocessor 122 to connect generator output to a suitable storage device such as a battery 130. Preferably, battery 130 is different from a storage battery (not shown) conventionally used by a motor vehicle to serve the engine and auxiliary functions.

It is presently contemplated that an advantageous energy storage system could, either in place of or in addition to a generator, be provided by an air compressor. Referring now to FIG. 12, an engine 203 and continuously variable transmission 224, which are generally similar to their counterparts shown in FIG. 6, are arranged to drive a vehicle road wheel 226, and also to drive an air pump 227. When engine 203 drives pump 227 through transmission 224, a valve 229 is open, enabling compressed air to flow to a storage tank 230. At other times, valve 229 is closed. When it is desired to draw power in the form of compressed air from tank 230, valve 229 is opened. Compressed air may then act on pump 227, reversing operation of pump 227 from that of a pump to that of a pneumatic motor. These functions are preferably managed by a microprocessor 222 in a “drive-by-wire” arrangement, or an arrangement wherein the operator of the vehicle operates switches which provide input signals to microprocessor 222 rather than providing mechanical inputs which directly actuate the desired functions.

It would be possible to modify engine 203 by suitable changes to air exhaust valves (not separately shown) and their associated passages and by discontinuing combustion and operating engine 203 as a pump. A conventional exhaust conduit may be routed in close proximity to the compressed air receptacle. This increases effective pressure of stored compressed air, using only otherwise waste heat of the exhaust.

In an advantageous use of the invention, a motor vehicle (not shown in its entirety) is driven in a “coast down” mode wherein once a predetermined vehicle speed is attained, engine operation is changed from active power generation through internal combustion to rotation only. In the “rotation only” mode, pistons undergo no displacement and merely rotate together with the cylinder block. Stored inertial energy may then be applied for vehicle propulsion. Speed may be maintained relatively constant where a continuously variable transmission is employed. Alternatively, in the absence of a continuously variable transmission, a constant ratio transmission may connect the rotating mass to the vehicle drive wheels. When a predetermined minimum vehicle speed is reached, the crankshaft may be adjusted to reestablish internal combustion operation. The speed of the vehicle may be progressively increased to the predetermined high speed, at which point a new coast down cycle may be put into play. Prior experiments have shown that this is an effective strategy in increasing average fuel mileage. It is currently believed that one source of efficiency is that of utilizing the engine only at full volumetric efficiency when internal combustion occurs. The flywheel effect tends to oppose rapid speed loss and thus reduces frequency of switching between active power operation and coast down operation.

The exact nature of engine 10 or 103 may be varied to suit. The selected form of the engine may encompass either two stroke cycle operation or four stroke cycle operation, depending upon the valve system provided. It is also optional to switch operation between two stroke and four stroke cycles by appropriate manipulation of valving. Combustion may be either of the compression ignition type or of the spark ignition type, with appropriate fuel and ignition systems being fitted to the engine.

In some engine operation regimens, it may be necessary to have poppet valves in place of the inlet ports and exhaust ports shown for the previously described embodiments. FIG. 7 shows an arrangement for providing a poppet valve carried in the cylinder block or cylinder head. In the embodiment of FIG. 7, engine 132 has an external protective housing 134, a crankshaft 136, and a cylinder block 138. Crankshaft 136 and cylinder block 138 function in the manner of the previously described embodiments as to power production, but vary in valve arrangements and in ignition type. Cylinder block 138 has an upwardly projecting member 140 which includes a receptacle for slidably receiving a lifter or tappet 142. A pushrod 144 is supported at one end by interference with tappet 142 and at the other end by a rocker arm 146. Rocker arm 146 reciprocatingly drives a poppet valve 148. Location of valve 148 is shown in purely symbolic fashion. In practice, its location and orientation may be varied as appropriate to replace or supplement the exposed port valves of the prior embodiments.

Tappet 142 rotates in tandem with cylinder block 138, and is operated by a cam lobe 150. Cam lobe 150 is fixedly mounted on a an enlarged portion of crankshaft 136, or cam carrier 152. It will be appreciated that although cam lobe 150 is a fixed or stationary component of engine 132, rotation of cylinder block 138 causes mutual motion with cam lobe 150. Cam lobe 150 therefore operates in conventional fashion despite its unconventional location.

FIG. 7 also shows how a mechanical fuel injection system may be fitted to engine 132. A projecting member 154 essentially similar to projecting member 140 houses a fuel injection plunger 156 housed in a bore formed in member 154. Plunger 156 is displaced by a cam lobe 157 in a manner similar to operation of tappet 142. Plunger 156 imposes pressure on fuel, which is then conducted to an injector such as injector 76 of FIG. 2. Supporting elements of a fuel injection system, such as a return line, will be understood to be provided where required.

Both the valve elements including tappet 142, pushrod 144, and rocker arm 146, and also fuel injection plunger 156 may be returned to their initial positions in known fashion by respective return springs (not shown). It will be appreciated that where necessary to achieve different timing and duration characteristics, different tiers of cam lobes may be provided for the fuel injection and valve systems. Also, where it is desirable to vary timing of one set of cam lobes independently from the other, separately controlled concentric sleeves (not shown) may be provided in encircling relation about crankshaft 136. These sleeves may each be operated by a motor such as motor 116 of FIG. 5 to effect the desired control.

FIG. 8 shows a modification to valve rocker arms to enable an auxiliary function to be driven therefrom. Illustratively, rocker arm 158 has a fulcrum generally indicated at 160, an arm portion 162 extending to engage a valve stem 164 and valve spring 166, an arm portion 168 extending to engage a pushrod 170, and an auxiliary arm 172. A push rod 174 is yoked to a pin 176 or otherwise pivotally connected to auxiliary arm 172. Push rod 174 operates a plunger 178 slidably disposed within a chamber 180 of a housing 182. In those embodiments wherein push rod 174 not yoked, then a return spring (not shown) is preferably provided to return plunger 178 to its initial position after displacement by push rod 174. Reciprocation of plunger 178 pressurizes lubricant (not shown) or other fluid contained in chamber 180. Pressurized fluid exits through a conduit 184. Loss through entry opening 186 is prevented by a ball type check valve 188. One function that may be satisfied in this manner is that of fuel injectors, particularly for diesel operation. It may be desirable to inject a cylinder other than that associated with rocker arm 158 to assure appropriate timing of injection with respect to the combustion cycle.

FIG. 9 shows details of induction and exhaust gas flow and also how certain support functions, such as lubricant and circulation and electrical connections are provided to engine 210. FIG. 9 also clearly differentiates between moving and stationary parts. Engine 210 is generally similar in function and construction to its counterparts of FIGS. 1 and 7. Engine 210 comprises a rotatable cylinder block 238 which contains cylinder and piston assemblies, a connecting rod, and a crankshaft positioning adjuster (not separately shown) which may be similar to those described prior. Cylinder block 238 is generally circular if viewed in top plan, and rotates as indicated by arrow A. Stationary parts are shown in cross hatching. Cross hatching is employed only to indicate stationary parts and to assist in discerning walls separating passages, and should not be construed to indicated continuous, solid constituency of illustrated components.

Cylinder block 238 has a shaft 240 which is supported on radial bearings 242 and thrust bearing 244 (shown representatively rather than literally). Bearings 242, 244 are mounted in a suitably sturdy frame or support member 246. Preferably, bearings 242 and 244 are of the self-sealed type used to support wheels on stub axles in conventional wheeled road going vehicles, and are independent of the forced lubrication system. Mounted to shaft 240 are a toothed wheel or gear 248, a coolant pump 250, and an oil pump 252. An electric starter motor 254 is operably connectable to gear 248. Pumps 250 and 252 may be, for example, of the eccentric lobe type, where an eccentric lobe (not separately shown) is driven by shaft 240. Outputs of pumps may be conducted by suitable conduits to the points of use or to intermediate conduits as necessary.

Fluids necessary for supporting functions are introduced into cylinder block 238 through an intake conduit 256. The nature of intake conduit 256 is better understood by examining FIG. 10. Intake conduit 256 has a central passageway 258 for inducting combustion air into cylinder block 238 from air filter 260, with flow indicated by arrows (see FIG. 9). Passageways internal to cylinder block 238 (not shown, but functionally similar to intake passages 38, 40, 42 of FIG. 1) are provided in cylinder block 238 to conduct combustion air to individual cylinders (not shown in FIG. 9).

A second passageway 262 is arranged concentrically about yet isolated from passageway 258. Unlike passageway 258, which is open at both top and bottom, passageway 262 has an upper wall 264 to constrain fluids to communicate at the top only with a tube 266. A third passageway 268 is concentrically disposed about passageway 262, again isolated therefrom. Passageway 268 has an upper wall 270 and is in communication with a tube 272. The outer wall of each passageway 258, 262, or 268 has an associated seal, such as a compressible O-ring 274, 276, or 278.

Again referring to FIG. 9, intake conduit 256 is held in fixed position abutting cylinder block 238 such that O-rings 274, 276, 278 make contact with cylinder block 238. Cylinder block 238 has internal passages or conduits which correspond to passageways 258, 262, and 268. Each internal passage is configured annularly and in direct registry beneath its associated passageway 258, 262, 268. Thus fluids pass from stationary intake conduit 256 into cylinder block 238 even when the latter is rotating relative to the former.

Illustratively, coolant may be pumped from pump 250 to a liquid-to-air heat exchanger such as a conventional radiator, then to inlet tube 266 (see FIG. 10) of intake conduit 256. Coolant will then pass to an appropriate internal passage of cylinder block 238 and recirculated. Coolant may be discharged in any suitable way from cylinder block 238, such as by an arrangement similar to that of intake conduit 256. This may be accomplished by increasing the number of passageways from those shown in intake conduit 256 to establish a conduit having both intake and discharge functions, by providing a generally similar conduit at shaft 240, or in any other suitable way.

A suitable lubricant such as engine oil may be pumped from pump 252 to a suitable oil filter (not shown), through an oil cooler if desired, and then to tube of intake conduit 256. Oil then passes through passageway 268 (see FIG. 10) and into an appropriate passage formed in cylinder block 238. Oil is recovered by a dry sump method and eventually recirculated to pump 252. It is preferred to employ a dry sump lubrication scheme, wherein lubricant is pumped back to the supply pump. In this capacity, it is preferred to provide piston rings which constrain lubricant to accumulate within the breathing chamber (such as lower section or portion 54 of the cylinder depicted in FIG. 2). Oil collection galleries (not shown) may then conduct oil under the influence of centrifugal force arising from engine rotation to a return pump. This pump may be of the plunger type shown in and described with reference to FIG. 8. It should be stated that the plunger arrangement shown in FIG. 8 may be modified to include more than one plunger and more than one purpose being served. Illustratively, rocker arm driven plunger pumps may serve both oil return and fuel injection systems. Alternatively, a plunger and spring cam driven from the crank shaft may be employed (this embodiment is not shown). Inertia and centrifugal force may be employed to propel lubricant through a spiral return path (this embodiment is not shown).

Exhaust is conducted from individual cylinders in a manner similar to that of the embodiment of FIG. 1. Exhaust passages lead from individual cylinders or combustion chambers (not shown in FIG. 9) to individual catalytic converters 280. Exhaust is then discharged into an open chamber 282 formed between cylinder block 238 and a surrounding housing 284. Housing 284 both confines exhaust gasses and also forms a structural member for supporting intake conduit 256 and other engine ancillaries such as motor mounts, fluid and electrical connections, and the like (none individually shown). Housing 284 is preferably sufficiently stout as to serve as a scatter shield for retaining cylinder block 238 in the event of disintegration, failure of bearings 242, and the like. Exhaust gasses are preferably discharged tangentially from catalytic converters 280 in a direction opposite to the usual rotational direction of cylinder block 238, to provide a jet assist effect in propelling cylinder block 238. Muffling materials may be attached to the interior of housing 284. Alternatively, a muffler 286 may be provided to silence gasses being discharged from chamber 282.

In a currently preferred embodiment of the invention, engine 210 is a compression ignition or diesel engine. Glow plugs (not shown) are provided in their customary relationship to the combustion chambers. Glow plugs may be connected to power for engine starting in the following way. A solenoid plunger operated switch 288 is provided for each cylinder. Each switch 288 is connected to power from a battery (not shown). Each switch 288 includes a contact which projects such that it contacts a corresponding contact formed on cylinder block 238. The corresponding contacts may be rings disposed continuously about and concentrically to the rotational axis of cylinder block 238. Alternatively, they may be of relatively small size and in a predetermined location. Coordination of alignment between the stationary and mobile contacts may be achieved by manually adjusting cylinder block 238 to a predetermined location. Alternatively, cylinder block 238 may be arranged to come to a stop at a predictable angular position by utilizing resistance of compression, especially where a relatively small number of cylinders, such as two or three, is utilized.

Similar switches (not shown) may be provided to provide a ground path. Alternatively, switches 288 may be provided with additional contacts for this purpose. Electrical power supplied through switches 288 is appropriately insulated from ineffective contact to ground, and is conducted to the glow plugs. Solenoid switches 288 are de-energized to retract by spring force after sufficient time to warm the glow plugs adequately. Engine 210 may then be started by rotating cylinder block 238 by starter motor 254. Preferably, the starting system includes a temperature sensor (not shown), so that when the engine is sufficiently warm to effect combustion spontaneously from the fuel injection system, glow plug operation will not be activated.

Although not shown, fuel may be supplied to fuel injectors (not separately shown) mounted in the cylinder block assembly in a manner similar to that shown for coolant and lubricant. Preferably a relatively low pressure fuel supply pump is provided, with final high pressure being supplied by plungers such as that described with reference to FIG. 8.

It should be understood that certain modifications may be made to the embodiments described herein. For example, the number of engine cylinders may be at least two, and any number as desired. As a practical matter, the maximum number of cylinders is held to be about nine, since beyond that number, interference problems occur and the magnitude of the stroke becomes excessive compared to magnitude of the bore for each cylinder.

Arrangements for aspirating the engine other than those shown herein may be utilized, with appropriate modification to valving, porting, and the like. Poppet valves and exposed port valves may be changed to other types where desired. The stepped piston design described herein may be modified to eliminate that construction, may be modified to achieve supercharging in another way, or to eliminate supercharging.

Brushes (not shown) may be employed to conduct electrical signals into the rotating cylinder block where desired.

The descriptions of the preferred embodiments are not to be construed in a limiting sense but rather in illustrative capacity. The scope of the invention should be interpreted according to the appended claims.


1. A power system including a radial rotary internal combustion engine as a prime mover, and a power transmission element capable of outputting power selectively from both active internal combustion power production and also inertia of engine rotating mass, wherein said engine includes

a rotatable cylinder block disposed to rotate about an axis of rotation and having formed therein a plurality of cylinders generally oriented to radiate from said axis of rotation, a piston reciprocatingly disposed within each one of said plurality of cylinders, a stationary crankshaft, and a unitary connecting rod encirclingly engaging said crankshaft and pivotally connected to each said piston, wherein said crankshaft has a longitudinal center line offset from said axis of rotation of said cylinder block such that rotation of said cylinder block and pistons about said crankshaft produces apparent reciprocation of each one of said pistons relative to each one of said plurality of cylinders, and
a rotation adjuster disposed to move said crankshaft to a second axis of rotation displaced from said first axis of rotation such that said rotatable cylinder block rotates about said second axis of rotation and each one of said cylinders is located such that said piston of each one of said cylinders avoids causing displacement within its respective said cylinder.

2. The power system according to claim 1, wherein said power transmission element includes a continuously variable transmission disposed to transmit and vary torque and rotational output speed from said engine.

3. The power system according to claim 1, further including an energy storage system for storing energy other than in the form of inertia of engine rotating mass.

4. The power system according to claim 2, wherein said energy storage system includes an air pump driven by said engine, a storage receptacle disposed to receive and store air compressed by said pistons, and a valve enabling compressed air to operate said air pump as a pneumatic motor.

5. The power system according to claim 1, wherein each said cylinder is canted in the direction of rotation wherein the outermost section of each said cylinder being in a leading position, and the innermost section of each said cylinder being in a trailing position relative to said leading position.

Patent History
Publication number: 20070137595
Type: Application
Filed: Sep 22, 2004
Publication Date: Jun 21, 2007
Inventor: Gary Greenwell (Williamsburg, VA)
Application Number: 10/946,549
Current U.S. Class: 123/43.00R
International Classification: F02B 75/26 (20060101); F02B 57/00 (20060101); F01B 13/04 (20060101);