Water-based fuel ready for the marketplace
It seems too good to be true, but rigorous tests in Nevada, California, and Illinois show a breakthrough water-based fuel could power the nation's vehicles, trains, and gas-powered aircraft by century's end. Reno inventor Rudolf Gunnerman developed the milky fluid. It has undergone a battery of federal fuel tests by Gunnerman and Caterpillar Inc. The A-21TM fuel consists of water and heavy naphtha, a crude oil byproduct produced early and economically in the oil-refining process. According to its inventor, the fuel can contain up to 55% water. A proprietary additive package binds the water and naphtha, and protects engines from the rusting and freezing inherent with the introduction of water into an engine system. The water allows the fuel to burn cooler and more efficiently, producing more energy and less unburned carbon. Only minor modifications to diesel and gasoline engines are needed to allow them to run on the fuel. Global commercialization is possible by the fact that the fuel can be made virtually anywhere in automated blending facilities. FAX Dick Cooper at (702) 826-8383.
Automotive fuel cards eliminate erratic tank displays
Automotive fuel-level indicators typically consist of resistor wire wound around a rectangular-shaped card. A simple float moving up and down as the liquid level rises and falls operates an electrical wiper across the resistor element. The resultant current is fed to an instrument panel fuel gauge. With continued use, wire wear can result in an erratic fuel measurement display. By using a proprietary thick-film cermet material on a ceramic substrate, Spectrol Electronics has developed a fuel-gauge sensor that overcomes these problems, according to the company's Charles W. Fixa. The unit's conductor employs a new silver powder for maximum density and abrasion resistance. The cermet systems are fired at higher than normal temperatures, helping to improve their chemical and mechanical integrity. The materials, says Fixa, have demonstrated a 400% improvement in operational life compared to competitive products. The fuel card delivers an output that is linear to the volume of fuel in the tank, regardless of the tank's shape. FAX Fixa at (909) 923-6765.
Liftgate node for vans promises more flexibility
Touted as a revolutionary, state-of-the-art design, United Technologies Automotive (UTA) has developed a rear, integrated liftgate node it says cuts costs, consolidates components, and reduces weight. The multiplexed node incorporates six separate functions: liftgate lock/unlock, liftglass release, liftgate wiper, heated backlight, license plate lamps, and center high-mounted stop lamp. Use of the multiplexing technology, a single dc motor, and a special device called a "Geneva mechanism" enable the node to perform functions that previously required three separate motors and a series of wires, relays, and electronics, says UTA's Masazumi Sone. The Geneva mechanism, key to the node's integration, consists of a central cam and three shafts that turn using a series of cam followers. The unit is powered by a permanent-magnet motor. Each section of the mechanism is responsible for one of the three moving functions: liftgate wiper, lock/unlock, and liftglass release. E-mail Michael Scholl at email@example.com .
Crash-test dummies to incorporate 'virtual-reality' smarts
Individual crash tests cost about $750,000. Because different accident scenarios may affect different parts of human and car bodies, automakers perform many different crash tests until they receive the desired, often costly, results. However, crash testing will go virtual after Los Alamos National Laboratory develops a safety laboratory for General Motors, which is funding the four-year project. The virtual safety lab will enhance results gleaned from crash-test data, and could even reduce by 15 to 20% the number of tests used to determine the safety of newly designed vehicles. The goal of the lab, according to Los Alamos researcher Bill Wray, is to develop an advanced computer modeling system that integrates mechanical crash responses with human-occupant responses. The results would assess the injury potential to specific organs, organ systems, or musculoskeletal components. In the new concept, the automotive engineer would access a mainframe computer via a desktop workstation. E-mail Kathy DeLucas at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Lightweight battery under development for hybrid buses
Saft America Inc., Valdosta, GA, is developing a new high-powered nickel-cadmium cell for hybrid-vehicle bus applications. Saft's goal in its $110,000 contract with Orion Bus: "to develop cells that reduce hybrid battery weight to less than 1,000 lbs for a 40-ft bus, offering a 50% savings in weight." Adds Lou Magnorella, Saft's traction battery marketing manager: "This cell, the first designed specifically for large hybrid vehicles, will provide high current during acceleration and accept high current during regenerative braking, which means overall excellent performance." With a six-year life, driven 12 hours a day, thermal performance is a key consideration, because of the stresses placed on the batteries. Based on Saft's aviation-battery technology, the STX-600 hybrid cells will remove the peaks and valleys of a hybrid bus power needs on a normal route. FAX (912) 247-2849.