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Technical Paper

Study on the Use of Springs in a Dual Free Piston Engine Alternator

The free piston engine combined with a linear electric alternator has the potential to be a highly efficient converter from fossil fuel energy to electrical power. With only a single major moving part (the translating rod), mechanical friction is reduced compared to conventional crankshaft technology. Instead of crankshaft linkages, the motion of the translator is driven by the force balance between the engine cylinder, alternator, damping losses, and springs. Focusing primarily on mechanical springs, this paper explores the use of springs to increase engine speed and reduce cyclic variability. A numeric model has been constructed in MATLAB®/Simulink to represent the various subsystems, including the engine, alternator, and springs. Within the simulation is a controller that forces the engine to operate at a constant compression ratio by affecting the alternator load.
Journal Article

Resonance of a Spring Opposed Free Piston Engine Device

Recent free piston engine research reported in the literature has included development efforts for single and dual cylinder devices through both simulation and prototype operation. A single cylinder, spring opposed, oscillating linear engine and alternator (OLEA) is a suitable architecture for application as a steady state generator. Such a device could be tuned and optimized for peak efficiency and nominal power at unthrottled operation. One of the significant challenges facing researchers is startup of the engine. It could be achieved by operating the alternator in a motoring mode according to the natural system resonant frequency, effectively bouncing the translator between the spring and cylinder, increasing stroke until sufficient compression is reached to allow introduction of fuel and initiation of combustion. To study the natural resonance of the OLEA, a numeric model has been built to simulate multiple cycles of operation.
Journal Article

Fundamental Analysis of Spring-Varied, Free Piston, Otto Engine Device

Conventional crank-based engines are limited by mechanical, thermal, and combustion inefficiencies. The free piston of a linear engine generator reduces frictional losses by avoiding the rotational motion and crankshaft linkages. Instead, electrical power is generated by the oscillation of a translator through a linear stator. Because the free piston is not geometrically constrained, dead center positions are not specifically known. This results in a struggle against adverse events like misfire, stall, over-fueling, or rapid load changes. It is the belief that incorporating springs will have the dual benefit of increasing frequency and providing a restoring force to aid in greater cycle to cycle stability. For dual free piston linear engines the addition of springs has not been fully explored, despite growing interest and literature.
Technical Paper

Sensitivity Analysis and Control Methodology for Linear Engine Alternator

Linear engine alternator (LEA) design optimization traditionally has been difficult because each independent variable alters the motion with respect to time, and therefore alters the engine and alternator response to other governing variables. An analogy is drawn to a conventional engine with a very light flywheel, where the rotational speed effectively is not constant. However, when springs are used in conjunction with an LEA, the motion becomes more consistent and more sinusoidal with increasing spring stiffness. This avoids some attractive features, such as variable compression ratio HCCI operation, but aids in reducing cycle-to-cycle variation for conventional combustion modes. To understand the cycle-to-cycle variations, we have developed a comprehensive model of an LEA with a 1kW target power in MATLAB®/Simulink, and an LEA corresponding to that model has been operated in the laboratory.
Technical Paper

Quantification of Windage and Vibrational Losses in Flexure Springs of a One kW Two-Stroke Free Piston Linear Engine Alternator

Methods to quantify the energy losses within linear motion devices that included flexural springs as the main suspension component were investigated. The methods were applied to a two-stroke free-piston linear engine alternator (LEA) as a case study that incorporated flexure springs to add stiffness to the mass-spring system. Use of flexure springs is an enabling mechanism for improving the efficiency and lifespan in linear applications e.g. linear engines and generators, cryocoolers, and linear Stirling engines. The energy loss due to vibrations and windage effects of flexure springs in a free piston LEA was investigated to quantify possible energy losses. A transient finite element solver was used to determine the effects of higher modes of vibration frequencies of the flexure arms at an operational frequency of 65 Hz. Also, a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) solver was used to determine the effects of drag force on the moving surfaces of flexures at high frequencies.