Mitja Hinderks, Litus Foundation’s founder, has come up with a series of technological innovations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, all of which would lead to major energy savings. The key innovation, on which much of the Foundation’s efforts have so far been devoted, is the development and world-wide commercialization of uncooled internal combustion engines (ICEs) for all applications and fuels.
Alongside the breakthrough technologies behind the Litus engine, there are three other significant groups of innovations in the areas of: Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVTs); Commercial Hydrofoil & other Marine Craft; Hybrid-Drive & other Aircraft.
Uncooled Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs)
Between 35% and 40% of man-made CO₂ comes from all ICEs used in vehicles, ships, electricity generation, rail and industrial / agricultural equipment. Today, piston engines dissipate (waste) 30% to 50% of fuel energy via air- or water-based cooling systems and general radiation. This is unsustainable.
Uncooled internal combustion engines are for applications in every industry and for all current fuels, including hydrogen and ammonia. Compared to today’s cooled engines, they would have about twice the efficiency (using half the fuel); be many times smaller and lighter; virtually silent; simpler and more reliable because they would have far fewer moving parts; have no cooling or piston / cylinder oil systems to fail nor toxic fluids to dispose of. They would about halve CO₂ emissions, greatly reduce emissions of particulates and NOx so improving health wherever used. Much lighter engines and less-needed fuel will provide longer operating ranges for cars, heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), rail, ships and aircraft.
It will be a long time before green fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia and their infrastructures will be widely available. Today, there are few alternatives to fossil fuel use for ICEs in heavy vehicles; rail; shipping; aircraft; mining, and agricultural / industrial equipment. Nearly all these applications are switching to hybrid drives, which need no new infrastructure, use far less batteries, and are for all countries and terrain. Only some light vehicles could be all-electric. With their charging systems and added electricity generating requirements, they are mostly not affordable or practical in many less-developed countries.
Uncooled engines will run at very high pressures and temperatures, enabling more fuel energy to push the piston (according to the Carnot rule), with the rest held in the much hotter exhaust gas where it can be retrieved to do more mechanical work and increase performance, using current exhaust heat energy recovery technology. Because of the high temperatures, the traditional piston / cylinder oil system is not usable. Instead, the components are separated by gas bearings, a well-known technology.
Pistons and cylinders of industrial ceramic are in heavily thermally / acoustically insulating casings. Typically, an electrical generator would be coupled to the engine inside the casing to make a gen-set. With no plumbing for cooling or for piston-cylinder oil systems, engines can be ’snap-in’ cartridges. Equipment no longer needs to be towed to a repair facility; engines can be replaced onsite, a game changer. Litus has solved earlier problems on use of ceramics in engines.
recess in equipment
Efficiencies for uncooled engines of all size ranges will be between 47% and 50%, without using an exhaust heat energy recovery system (EHERS). In contrast, smaller engines today have real-world efficiencies of 5% – 15%, with larger ones – often using some exhaust energy – generally having real-world efficiencies in the 25% – 40% range. Adding EHERS to uncooled engines can boost efficiencies to the circa 70% region, depending on number and type of EHERSs used. Multiple EHERSs are practical in rail, marine and stationary engine applications.
Litus is seemingly alone in working on uncooled engines; they do not exist anywhere yet. It is one of the few projects that would quickly slow global heating. Once available, uncooled engines – with their many advantages including halved fuel costs – could almost completely replace today’s cooled piston engines, cutting global man-made CO2 by roughly 20% within a decade or so, 30% if largely using hydrogen and / or ammonia. In 2017 the global piston engine market was worth $660 Billion.
An illustrated description of a key version of the Litus uncooled engine is an Appendix to the Business Plan.
Continuously Variable Trasmissions (CVTS)
Today’s CVT’s are nearly all friction drives, either using a belt driving a V-pulley, where the arms of the V are movable relative to each other, or a wheel on a disc, where the wheel moves towards and away from the axis of rotation of the disc. Both have theoretically zero contact area; as the contact area widens at the belt or wheel, one side of that area wants to move at a different speed to the other. It can’t, so there is friction and loss of efficiency. These CVT’s have severe power limitations and are generally only used in medium-sized cars and smaller applications.
To overcome the problem of restricted contact area, people have devised a broad belt linking two rollers, at least one of which is of variable diameter. Enzo Ferrari patented such device in the ’50s. The problem with the prior devices is that the belt typically wraps around half the circumference of the roller. As the roller expands or contracts, only a tiny longitudinal strip of the belt is in equilibrium with the roller; the remaining portion of the belt is slipping on the roller circumference, causing friction and loss of efficiency.
The Litus invention is having the roller expand and contract in stages. As a portion of the belt first contacts the roller, only the roller segment directly under it changes its radius; as the belt continues over the roller the segments directly underneath change their radius sequentially. There is no power limitation, no friction, no loss of efficiency and, above all, no lessening or interruption of power transmission. It is estimated that the Litus CVT might cost between 90% and 120% of the cost of a conventional transmission.
Once commercially available, it is virtually certain that many light vehicles, nearly all trucks and most other equipment will switch to using the new Litus CVTs. It is estimated that substituting conventional transmissions with the Litus CVTs will reduce fuel use in installed equipment by 10% to 20%.
Hydrofoil & Other Marine Craft
The marine innovations focus on hydrofoil operation for all craft, with special emphasis on larger military or commercial vessels. Hydrofoils are the fastest water-based vehicles propelled solely by human power, reaching speeds of up to 34 km/h, easily exceeding competitive rowing records which stand at about 20 km/h. The improved efficiency has been confirmed during recent America’s Cup yacht racing, now using hydrofoils and travelling at around twice the speed of earlier hull-in-the-water racing yachts.
A modern tanker’s or container ship’s size is determined by its route. If it travels through the Panama Canal, its width cannot be greater than the width of the Canal less around 4 metres for clearance each side. If it serves Long Beach, its draft cannot be more than the average depth of the harbour, less about 3 metres for clearance.
The key innovation is that everything to do with hydrofoil travel is retractable into a recess in the hull. Entering / leaving harbour or in a canal the vessel travels in normal hull-in-the-water mode. Once clear, the hydrofoil equipment is extended and the vessel travels over ocean, lake or river with the hull out of the water. Under hazardous conditions (eg severe storms), the hull can be again lowered into the water.
Disclosed are telescopic as well as pivoting / hinged / folding layouts. There are protections for the hydrofoil posts should they hit water-borne debris such as floating containers. Described are engines or electric motors driving propellers or water jets located in housings at the foot of the posts, as well as rudders mounted near the foot of the posts. The high power-density, compact and light Litus uncooled engines are ideal for such applications. The hydrofoils themselves can be pivotally mounted to vary angle of attack. When the hydrofoil equipment is fully retracted into the hull, hatches can provide human access from the hull to an end-of-post housing containing an engine or motor.
If the craft hulls are designed to nearly always travel above water, they can be as wide as desired. Today, large tankers travel between mooring posts without passing through canals or entering ports. Marine craft propulsion is preferably by hybrid drive, using photovoltaic arrays as an energy source. They could also be driven wholly or partly by sails or kites.
It is provisionally estimated that hydrofoil commercial craft would cost between 15% and 30% more to build than conventional vessels. Travelling above water could lead to large fuel savings, of between 25% and 50%. Journey times will tend to be shorter, leading to further cost reductions due to shorter leasing periods and / or crew costs, of the order of 20% to 40%. Once the existing hydrofoil technology is further refined and optimized, as it can be, most boats and ships will be hydrofoils.
Hybrid-Drive & Other Aircraft
Lately there has been much interest and work on hybrid aircraft propulsion, some of which may be predated by the early Litus disclosures The combination of hybrid aircraft powered by the Litus engines would be novel and patentable. A preliminary assessment suggests that hybrid aircraft could only be a commercial proposition using ICEs having the Litus engines’ superior power density, small size, and low weight, not to mention silence.
The disclosures describe the option of using the hot exhaust to create thrust, either directly or via a turbine. The thrust device could be pivotable or fixed. In helicopters, it could be used at the tail to balance the counter-rotational moment created by the main rotor, so eliminating the need for a tail rotor and its drive mechanism.
When the Litus Uncooled engines are commercialised, they are likely to be installed in nearly all aircraft using ICE / electric hybrid drives. The Litus engines would make such drives viable and commercially feasible, thereby greatly reducing the CO2 emissions per seat-mile travelled.