ITM Power to provide 0.5MW electrolyzer to EMEC for integrated H2 system for tidal energy storage
Honda R&D team uses gasoline-diesel dual fuel method for high thermal efficiency at low loads

Libertine FPE builds demo prototype of linear free piston generator

UK-based Libertine FPE has built a demonstration prototype of its linear electrical machine for what it is calling “Digital Piston Motion Control” in free piston engine applications. (Earlier post.) This technology will allow researchers to develop future combustion engines free from the piston motion constraints dictated by the crankshaft. Already validated at proof-of-concept level, Libertine’s new hardware uses production-feasible component designs suitable for automotive hybrid powertrain modules, such as range extenders.

Unlike conventional engine-generator combinations which use a crankshaft and mechanical powertrain to rotate an electrical machine, Libertine’s technology uses a linear electrical machine to generate power directly from the piston’s motion. The linear generator can also be used as a motor to apply a variable force to the piston, and this approach permits each piston’s velocity, motion profile and compression and expansion ratio to be optimally controlled via the ECU to accommodate startup, transient and flex-fuel operation. This flexibility offers significant improvements in combustion efficiency and has the potential to produce a third more power from the same fuel input.

Piston motion is the final major engine parameter that remains to be digitally controlled by the ECU rather than mechanically governed. Ignition and fueling went digital in the 1990s; systems for digital air provided by electronic boost and valve control have appeared already; only piston motion is still mechanically governed in modern engines, because of the persistence of the crankshaft in engine design.

—Sam Cockerill, Libertine CEO

In addition, it is simpler and is easily scaled to suit applications from 1 kWe to more than 100 kWe. Portable generators based on Libertine’s technology show a saving of up to 80% in package size and weight compared to the most efficient systems currently available.

Libertine’s linear machines will be incorporated into research engines at academic institutions for the study of advanced combustion methods such as homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI).

For engine designers accustomed to the inefficiencies associated with piston motion that is constrained by a crankshaft, it requires a fundamental shift in mind-set to appreciate the possibilities offered. Linear free piston engines can capture a much greater proportion of the energy contained in the fuel burnt, not only because the linear gas expander extracts electrical power directly from the expansion stroke, but also by optimizing the motion of the piston to improve combustion efficiency.

—Sam Cockerill

The sinusoidal motion of a piston in a conventional engine is rarely questioned because it is the inevitable result of crankshaft and connecting rod geometry, but the movement of the piston at the top of its stroke is far from ideal for optimum combustion and power generation. Libertine’s linear free piston technology gives researchers the freedom to explore advanced combustion strategies, such as HCCI, with independent control of piston position, reduced heat losses and a simple mechanical arrangement.

Improving the efficiency of a conventional crankshaft-coupled piston engine by varying the expansion ratio or compression ratio to suit different operating conditions typically requires a variable geometry connecting rod or combustion chamber, which leads to impractical levels of mechanical complexity. Our linear free piston technology permits the ECU to continually optimize these ratios by varying the piston motion, which can even be changed cycle-by-cycle if required. It really is that simple.

—Sam Cockerill

Libertine says that it’s patented technology overcomes several issues which have challenged linear power system developers in the past: motion control, system losses and component costs.

By using a novel high performance electrical machine architecture, coupled with a relatively long stroke with a small bore, the moving mass of the electrical machine is greatly reduced which improves control of piston motion and minimizes the combustion chamber’s surface-to-volume ratio at Top Dead Center, reducing heat loss. The long stroke also makes the system much less sensitive to positional error, simplifying the task of high speed control.

The stationary element of the electrical machine forms part of the cylinder bore, eliminating the need for sealing rings and reducing friction losses. The design architecture uses simple extrusions and pressings, combined with electrical winding and potting methods suitable for volume manufacture in order to minimise costs.



Let's hope it is real - a good range extender would be a huge boon for the EV world (and the world in general).

I wonder is it an IP play or do they really plan to make them?

A 20kw extender would be very useful for most midsized EVs.


The "wheel" is constantly being re-invented. A first working prototype employing these principles was introduced from DLR, Germany back in 2004. Because Mercedes have their meat hooks in this innovation, they have successfully prevented market penetration. They want to keep on producing and selling selling their stone age technology and prevent any possible upheavals on the market that may have re-percussions on themselves.

Henry Gibson

Pescara made successful free piston engines. Or rather his paid engineer did; but they worked and were used in a turbine car in the USA and some power plants. Many free piston air compressors were built for submarines and later for construction. INNAS has the NOAX Chiron engine for hydraulic pumping which can be made to generate electricity with a Pelton wheel as suggested by Pescara as well. But Bladen jets has already demonstrated two tiny turbines in a high performance electric automobile. Ian Wright, formerly of Tesla, states that only delivery vehicles save enough fuel to be worth improving with electric hybrid systems which he builds with batteries and a turbine to run on any prior selected fuel as range extender. ..HG..

The comments to this entry are closed.