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Variable Valve Timing: One Step Closer to Commercial Feasibility

  
  
  

LaunchPoint Technologies, Inc. (LaunchPoint) is completing Phase II of a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant* from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to design and test an electromechanical valve actuator. The technology enables reliable and cost-effective variable valve timing in camless internal combustion engines. According to Brian Paden, lead designer on the team, “Variable valve timing is an exciting technology that will open the door to the next generation of fuel-efficient internal combustion engines. LaunchPoint's design enables continuous variability in the phase and dwell of the engine valve.” The first generation valve design supports operation over 6500 RPM when the controller is set for a 2.3 msec full transition across an 8mm lift. The 10%-90% transition time for this controller setting is just 1.35 ms. Videos of valve implementation in bench and test-engine experiments demonstrate the high-speed actuator in use.

Concept Image for Valve Implementation on Four-Cylinder Head

Concept Image for Valve Implementation on Four Cylinder Head

Although desirable for its demonstrated improvements in fuel-efficiency, torque, and emissions, variable valve timing has remained an elusive technology. Currently, available variable valve timing mechanisms are either too costly to implement on conventional vehicles or far less effective and robust than desired. The goal of the proposed project has been to demonstrate a compact, linear-motion actuator capable of driving a typical engine valve.

The advantage of LaunchPoint’s technology lies in the high-speed mechanism that recovers the valve’s kinetic energy at the end of each transition from open to closed and vice versa. The stored energy is then released to accelerate the valve on the next transition while also ensuring a soft landing. The low-power electromechanical actuator is used only to "throw" or "catch" the valve at the beginning or the end of the stroke.

Variable valve timing technology has demonstrated a fuel efficiency improvement of up to 20 percent, torque improvement of 5 to 13 percent, emission reductions of up to 10 percent in hydrocarbons, and 40 to 60 percent in NOx for conventional spark ignition (SI) and compression ignition engines. The demonstrated improvements are even more dramatic for innovative Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) engines and Compressed Air Hybrid engines. For example, the NOx reduction is predicted to be two orders of magnitude lower in comparison to a conventional SI engine with almost zero particulate matter emissions.

Valves of this type can be applied to a wide variety of internal combustion engines. An electromechanical valve actuator eliminates the numerous engine components required for a typical camshaft drive, in turn, decreasing manufacturing and maintenance costs and increasing reliability. Such valves can be designed into new engines and retrofitted to existing engines. The widespread adoption of these valves would substantially decrease petroleum usage and the associated production of greenhouse gases and air pollution, while also promoting energy independence.

About LaunchPoint Technologies:
LaunchPoint Technologies Inc. is an engineering services and design firm that specializes in technology and product development. We have extensive experience in motor/generator design and development, medical device design and development, and maglev technologies. Our staff includes product and system designers, physicists, and engineers from a wide array of disciplines. As 'Venture Engineers' we invest our engineering expertise in proof-of-concept modeling and prototype design, secure IP, and assist with grant-writing and/or venture capital solicitation. For more information, please visit our website at launchpnt.com, or call 805-683-9659, ext. 207.

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*This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant IIP-1058556. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Media Contact:
Brian A. Paden
LaunchPoint Technologies, Inc.
5735 Hollister Ave., Suite B
Goleta, CA 93117
805-683-9659 (x237)
brianpaden(at)launchpnt(dot)com

Novel Magnetic Valve Actuator to Enable Electronically-Controlled Variable Valve Timing

  
  
  

A novel magnetic valve system being developed at LaunchPoint Technologies could enable the implementation of electronically-controlled variable valve timing in camless internal combustion engines. The linear-motion actuator implements the patented magnetic spring technology originally developed by LaunchPoint for an aerospace application. Outstanding performance characteristics seen in the first bench-top prototype have led to the award of a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation for continued development.

LaunchPoint's Magnetic Valve Actuator
LaunchPoint's Magnetic
Valve Actuator

LaunchPoint Technologies Inc. has been awarded a $500K National Science Foundation (NSF) Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant (No. IIP-1058556) to continue the development of a novel magnetic valve actuator. Once fully developed the actuator will enable the implementation of electronically-controlled variable valve timing in camless internal combustion engines.

Despite the introduction of hybrid-electric and electric cars, the vast majority of vehicles driven worldwide will continue to use internal combustion engines for several decades. To meet stringent emissions regulations and improve fuel-efficiency, new engine technologies are necessary. The "Holy Grail" of combustion control for internal combustion engines is variable valve timing. At each engine speed and operating condition, the valve timing can be optimized, enabling double-digit improvement in fuel-efficiency, torque, and emissions reductions.

Thus far, however, variable valve timing technology has been either too costly to implement on conventional vehicles or far less effective and robust than desired. LaunchPoint's new valve system could change that. The valve actuator is based on the patented magnetic spring technology (U.S. Patent 7,265,470) originally developed by LaunchPoint for an aerospace application. A bench-top prototype developed during the Phase I effort demonstrated outstanding performance characteristics. Test results showed that the actuator was able to traverse an 8mm stroke distance in 3 milliseconds with consistent switching trajectories and very soft landings.

Magnetic Valve System Prototype
Magnetic Valve System Prototype

Mike Ricci, VP of Engineering at LaunchPoint and Principal Investigator for the Phase II effort praised the U.S. SBIR program--"It is only with grants like this one from NSF that valuable new technologies being developed at small companies have a chance to get to market. This funding will enable LaunchPoint to bring the technology to a point where it is attractive for investors to help with commercialization."

 

The goal of the Phase II development effort is to reduce the switching interval even further while improving the robustness of the design. LaunchPoint engineers will design, build, and test a second generation of the magnetic valve actuator. The actuator will then be integrated into a complete engine subsystem and tested on an experimental engine.

Magnetic valve actuators can be applied to a wide variety of internal combustion engines. Actuators of this type would eliminate the numerous engine components required for a typical camshaft drive, thereby decreasing manufacturing and maintenance costs and increasing reliability. Magnetic actuators could be designed into new engines and retrofitted to existing engines. The widespread adoption of these actuators would substantially decrease petroleum usage and the associated production of greenhouse gases and air pollution while promoting the country's energy independence.

About LaunchPoint Technologies Inc.

LaunchPoint Technologies Inc. is an engineering services and contract R&D firm with expertise in electromagnetics; control theory; motor and generator design and development; medical device design and development; CFD optimization, and prototyping. LaunchPoint works with government agencies, companies, and entrepreneurs to develop new technologies, secure IP, and procure funds for commercialization efforts. For more information, please visit our website at www.launchpnt.com.

Magnetic Valve System for Variable Valve Timing of Camless Engines to Reduce Emissions and Improve Fuel Economy

  
  
  

A novel magnetic valve system being developed at LaunchPoint Technologies could be the enabling technology for electronically-controlled variable valve timing in advanced internal combustion engines.

Santa Barbara, CA (PRWEB) March 3, 2010 -- LaunchPoint Technologies, Inc. (LaunchPoint) has been awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovations Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to design and test a new magnetic valve actuator that will enable the reliable and cost-effective implementation of variable valve timing in camless internal combustion engines. Although desirable for its demonstrated improvements in fuel-efficiency, torque, and emissions reductions, variable valve timing has remained an elusive technology. Currently, available variable valve timing mechanisms are either too costly to implement on conventional vehicles or far less effective and robust than desired. The goal of the proposed project is to demonstrate a compact, linear-motion actuator capable of driving a typical engine valve.

During the Phase I development effort, LaunchPoint will design, prototype, and test the proposed actuator using the magnetic spring technology originally developed for a high-speed switching mechanism in a space application.

"Variable valve timing is the Holy Grail of internal combustion control," explains Dr. Maksim Subbotin, Systems Engineer and Principal Investigator for the project. "The advantages of our technology lie in the inherent nature of the nonlinear magnetic spring used as the primary valve actuator." The nonlinear spring provides most of the energy required to open or close the valve while also ensuring a soft landing. The low-power electromagnetic actuator is used only to "throw" or "catch" the valve at the beginning or the end of the stroke.

Variable valve timing technology has demonstrated a fuel efficiency improvement of up to 20 percent, torque improvement of 5 to 13 percent, emission reductions of up to 10 percent in hydrocarbons, and 40 to 60 percent in NOx for conventional spark ignition (SI) and compression ignition engines. The demonstrated improvements are even more dramatic for innovative Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) engines and Compressed Air Hybrid engines. For example, the NOx reduction is predicted to be two orders of magnitude lower in comparison to a conventional SI engine with almost zero particulate matter emissions.

Valves of this type could be applied to a wide variety of internal combustion engines. A magnetic valve actuator would eliminate the numerous engine components required for a typical camshaft drive, in turn, decreasing manufacturing and maintenance costs and increasing reliability. Magnetic valves could be designed into new engines and retrofitted to existing engines. The widespread adoption of these valves would substantially decrease petroleum usage and the associated production of greenhouse gases and air pollution, while also promoting energy independence.

About LaunchPoint Technologies

LaunchPoint Technologies Inc. is an engineering services and design firm that specializes in technology and product development. We have extensive experience in motor/generator design and development, medical device design and development, and maglev technologies. Our staff includes product and system designers, physicists, and engineers from a wide array of disciplines. As 'Venture Engineers' we invest our engineering expertise in proof-of-concept modeling and prototype design, secure IP, and assist with grant-writing and/or venture capital solicitation. For more information, please visit our website at launchpnt.com, or call 805-683-9659, ext. 219.

Media Contact:

Maksim Subbotin, Ph.D.
LaunchPoint Technologies, Inc.
5735 Hollister Ave., Suite B
Goleta, CA 93117
805-683-9659, ext. 237

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