Engineers at California startup Transonic Combustion say they’ve found a way to more than double gas mileage—without a hybrid system. Their solution? Supercritical fluids.
The engineers at Transonic have developed a new fuel injection system that takes advantage of an in-between state of matter called supercritical fluid. Supercritical fluids straddle the line between liquid and gas. They can diffuse through a solid like a gas, yet dissolve substances like a liquid. And—this is key—they have very low surface tension. So when liquid gasoline goes supercritical, it doesn’t form droplets and can mix with air almost instantly. That means drastically improved combustion and efficiency.
The injection system, called TSCi, has a catalyst that breaks fuel into simple hydrocarbons. The fuel is then squeezed through a heated injector that puts the fuel in a supercritical state. This reduces the time it takes to vaporize the fuel, which means it can be burned earlier and in the center of the combustion chamber. The flame burns fast and clean, and doesn’t transfer as much heat to the cylinder walls.
Transonic has a 3,200-pound test car outfitted with its TSCi system running on a dyno at 50 miles per hour. It’s getting 98 miles per gallon. In highway testing, another one of their test cars gets 64 mpg. The system also dramatically decreases emissions.
The company wants to hook up with major auto manufacturers to get its system on the road by 2014.