Start-up’s engine is under starter’s orders

An internal combustion engine, said to be 30% more efficient than conventional reciprocating engines, is under development by London technology start-up Lontra.

The company has recently received £75,000 from the DTI to develop its so-called ‘Lindsey Engine’, based on an original concept worked on at Southampton University by Lontra founder Steve Lindsey.

While the current patent status means that the company is tight-lipped over technical details, business development director Simon Hombersley said that the invention is based on an entirely new geometry for an IC engine and is essentially a rotary engine concept.

The basic principle of a rotary engine is that while a traditional four-stroke piston engine uses the same cylinder to handle intake, compression, combustion and exhaust, a rotary allows each of these four jobs to be done in a different section of its housing — a bit like having a separate cylinder to perform each of the four jobs. as the rotary engine has no linear motion to convert, it can be much smaller than an equivalent IC engine.

Hombersley said that the ‘Lindsey’ has a number of possible uses, although the system’s low heat-to-power ratio means that its initial application is likely to be electricity generation in the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) market.

Looking ahead, he said that the engine could be used in automotive applications. While realistic about the slim chances of the car industry plumping for a completely new engine geometry, he said that it is particularly well suited to hybrid vehicles which have a greater need for very small, highly-efficient IC engines.

Hombersley said the company is now working with Cosworth technology on taking the engine through to the proof of concept stage. He added that Lontra has also begun initial discussions with companies that may be interested in licensing the technology.