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Ags Changing the World of Automotives

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This could be the future of car engines.

"Conventional engines have this piston motion that goes up and down, and that limits the speed of the engine," said Mark Holtzapple, "so you can't get a lot of power to the engine because it just can't go fast enough. Our engine is designed so that all the motion is pure rotation so that you can kick the speed up and get the power density up."

Welcome to Star Rotor Corporation, where no energy is wasted...unlike a conventional car engine.

"You lose about 80 percent of the energy of the fuel," said Holtzapple, the president of the company. "Only about 15 to 20 percent of the energy ends up going to the wheels."

But using a variation of the Brayton Cycle -- in a way, like a jet engine -- Star Rotor's engine is between 50 and 60 percent efficient. And while it is half the size of a normal car engine, this device separates the three main components. In a regular engine, it's all in one box.

"It's the compressor, it's the combustor, and the expander, all in the same volume," Holtzapple explained. "You can't do any one of these functions particularly well."

"There isn't a recipe or a cookbook or anything to start from," said engineer Kyle Ross. "We just design everything from scratch, and go and cut it on the machines we have here at Star Rotor."

It's a nearly five-year-old company. After work began at Texas A&M, the corporation was formed, with all Aggies working on it.

"We've had this running now for six to eight months," said engineer Andrew Rabroker, "and it's nice to be in the improvement mode instead of trying to make it work the first time."

Their compressor is running. Work on the expander is underway. A 10-kilowatt engine is on the drawing board, and work begins soon.

A regular engine probably couldn't make it from New York to Los Angeles in less than a dozen tanks of gas. But Star Rotor thinks they can make that trek with their engine, on one tank of gas.

"If you combine that with a car body that has a drag coefficient of .2, then yes, you can drive from New York to Los Angeles on a tank of gas," said Holtzapple.

Or of alcohol, or hydrogen, or even olive oil. The Star Rotor engine can run on any fuel.

"My vision is that when you drive up to a pump to fill up your car, the fuel will be priced not in dollars per gallon, but dollars per BTU," Holtzapple said.

And this group believes their visions are tomorrow's revolutions.