Gas recycling exhausts the possibilities

A team of UK engineers claims to have developed a simple device that could recover the energy lost through a vehicle’s exhaust pipe.

Researchers working on the Turbo-generator Integrated Gas Energy Recovery System (Tigers) project said their system could make engines run more efficiently while generating enough power to run all of a vehicle’s electrical systems. Almost a third of the power produced by a conventional engine is wasted in the form of exhaust gas.

The Tigers group, which is part of the government’s Foresight Vehicle initiative, includes researchers from automotive systems giant Visteon, Harrogate-based SR Drives and The University of Sheffield.

At the heart of the system is an extra waste pipe installed below the manifold, where the exhaust system joins the engine. A valve linked to the engine’s management control system allows some of the high-energy gas to be drawn into this pipe, where it drives a custom-designed generator using a specialist device called a switched reluctance drive (SRD).

According to the Tigers group, the gas can spin the generator at up to 80,000rpm. Visteon’s Dr Richard Quinn, one of the engineers leading the project, said the easy-to-install system could be developed to produce anything from 12v to 600v.

The technology is also thought to have potential in hybrid drive systems, where the power it harvests from the exhaust could be fed back to the battery or used to boost the drive motors.