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Goodness Ugwumba Opara

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What is the future of the internal combustion engine?

Some people believe this engine will be phased out eventually. Others think it'll only get better and better as the years roll on. I think there's an an upper boundary to how much better it can become, and therefore there'll come a day when someone will build a museum for them. What do you think?

With electric vehicles on the horizon and battery technology improving each year, a bright future for these engines is becoming harder and harder to see.


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  • Aug 25 2013: Have you any idea of how many ICE (Internal Combustion Engines) are in existence worldwide? Do you really think a great new technology is going to replace the engines in South America or India or so many of the other 3rd world countries that are being squeezed out their natural resources? Yeah sure maybe when humanity grows a soul... But not for a long time like a thousand years... We can work with what we have and the rich can move into outer space and use fuel cells and electric engines but the other 10 billion have ICE, so lets make work with the water we have. H2O and a little electric = clean burning fuel... It's not rocket science...
    • Aug 25 2013: Problem is, hydrogen production from water is a very inefficient process--most of it goes into heating the water, not breaking apart the molecular bonds. For every unit of energy you get in hydrogen fuel, you need to spend quite a few more in electricity.

      Only way that'll be economical is if electricity turns cheap enough, and I'm not sure even nuclear fusion is capable of that particular feat while fossil fuels are still around as a cheap alternative.
      Another possibility is that capacitor design will improve enough that you could just use the electricity to power a vehicle directly (the only thing really holding back electric cars today is battery technology). No hydrogen required.

      The thing is with trying to predict technological advancement more than 5-10 years ahead, its like any prediction of the distant future. A fool's errand.
      • Aug 25 2013: That really was the case and 5 months ago I would have agreed with you. AquaTune uses the power from the intake manifold to help break apart the molecule rather than rely on electricity alone. Previously it took 10 to 12 amps of power to make 1.5 liters of hydrogen per minute but now they can produce 2.5 liters of hydrogen with only 1.5 amps of electricity on demand with NO storage necessary.

        This tech does not seek to replace petrol but instead work as a combined fuel saving you 25 to 40%. That is real and significant dollar savings in your pocket every week. Wouldn't you rather save money than have to buy and electric car replacement. I love electric cars. They are quiet and make a lot of sense, but worldwide replacement is impracticality. There are many countries where the vehicles are from the 1950's. if you are rich and can afford "the savings" more power to you. Maybe the rich will buy electric cars for the poor from the kindness of their hearts.

        I am not predicting just following the current and relevant technology. Many people still hold the notion that it takes more power the create perpetual motion than can be harnessed. That is a fool's errand. It closes the mind to the obvious, like the world is in a state of relative perpetual motion already, and all you have to do is plug in. Ie. wind turbines or geothermal power. The power is there already. Same with hydrogen. There are many low cost and novel ways to do what we previously thought couldn't be done or couldn't be done for another 5, 10, 20 or 100 years just sitting there looking at us and laughing at or lack of ingenuity.

        Maybe the oil companies will just stop making fuel and use the oil for plastics, asphalt, toothpaste and everything else that requires some form of oil and humanity will recycle it vehicles in a utopian change of conscienceless. I would really like that.
    • Aug 25 2013: Hydrogen from electrolysis or other chemical processes can not solve the issue of fuel. Forget about clean coal, nuclear, H2, biofuels, etc.We need a new paradigm shift in our motor/generator design. We should simply forget about fuels, and concentrate R&D to convertion/transformation of electromagnetic waves such as IR radiations. Once the technological challenge is resolved here, our energy problems will be solved 4 ever. The beauty of fuelless electricity generation is NO WASTE, GARBAGE CLEAN UP required.
      Check this journal article link: http://jrse.aip.org/1.2633039Amazing! Isn't it?
      • Aug 26 2013: Actually, it sounds from the article that you'll still need a source of heat to get any real amount of electricity together.
        Which in most cases, means fuel.

        We're still looking at a game changing technology once its made practical, but not quite on the scale you suggest.

        Of course, who knows when it'll actually be practical. Nuclear fusion for example, has been twenty years away for the past fifty years now. Chances are that it even once its developed, it'll be some time before its made economical while they work out all the initial kinks that new technology inevitably comes with. It may never be economical at all--go figure how the market will look in twenty years. You just can't know those things in advance.
        • Aug 27 2013: Hello Nadav,I think the need for excessive heat is due the immaturity of the technology. Any body at temperature above 0K radiate IR. As nanotechnology develops and we become more able to manipulate or control magnetic waves in those tiny devices, the conversion of IR radiations to electricity useful for motors, generators, and even storage will drastically increase. Already, estimates put the efficiency at 80%. Pretty good when you consider that PV barely go beyond 20%. What's more interesting about IR radiation conversion to electrons is that bright sun is not required. Suddenly, you have 24 hour source of electricity, day & night.
      • Aug 27 2013: Its not just about efficiency, its about effectiveness.

        If say, I have a panel which converts IR to electricity even at a theoretically impossible 100%, the total output of ambient IR radiation it picks up is 100 watts, and I want switch on a toaster that uses 1000 watts. Either I need to increase the ambient IR (easiest way would be to burn a fuel), or I need to store the electricity in some manner, which can be something of a pain.

        Some applications simply need a greater concentration of power than is practical to achieve with the energy of ambient IR.
        Hence, you'll always need fuel. Or extra panels I suppose, but at a certain point (and probably rather early) you'll hit a balance where fuel+existing panels is cheaper.
        • Aug 27 2013: Yes, Nadav.
          I agree.
          It's true that concentration of power is needed for some applications. However, that's what storage (batteries, flywheels, capacitors) is for. With this combo (ambiaent IR + storage) you will not need fuel. If, on average, you collect 100w/h from ambiant IR, at the end of day (Remember IR is available day or night), u'll have collected 2400wh, more than enough to run your 1000w toaster for 1 or 2 hours. I bet you don't use toaster for 2 hours every day. You see! Happy now?
      • Aug 27 2013: The idea that you can change an infrastructure without a catastrophic event is my first issue. Second you cannot enact broad change without the prospect of monetary gain. Solar is in a second decline in it's history. PV is all about real estate and financial return as well as is wind. Nuclear is stupid but only survive because of subsidy and even oil is subsidized through war and control.

        The important challange is that of transistion and profitability; being clean and green is wonderful but doesn't have the force to change a culture in total

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