BARRY PARK January 27, 2012
Inventor Peter Dearman demonstrating how supercooled air can be used to power a basic motor in a video on his website.
Liquid air could be the next transport fuel, inventor says.
A British inventor reckons he has cracked the code needed to drag the steam engine into the 21st century — and the secret is all in the air we breathe.
Peter Dearman, the developer of the appropriately named Dearman engine, reckons by just applying some modern-day engineering to a form of motor that pre-dates even the petrol-powered version, all our transport energy needs can easily be met.
The fuel? The air we breathe, cooled down until it is either a solid or liquid and then boiled much like water to produce ... nothing but air.
According to Dearman, air is the perfect fuel because it can be stored in its liquid state — at about minus 160 degrees Celsius — without needing to be kept under high pressure. It is so safe, he says, that it is easier to store and handle than diesel fuel.
Much like a steam engine, the Dearman engine relies on the liquid air boiling, and producing a gas that expands.
However, the engine is able to use a heat exchange system to flash-boil the liquid air fed into its cylinders — using the 160-degree temperature difference between it and the ambient air temperature — and provide petrol engine-like performance.
The low-budget company — hey, they use plastic drink bottles and even a beer keg as fuel tanks — has even modified a small hatchback with the engine, giving it enough performance to match a small-capacity petrol version.
Benefits include the ability to refuel the Dearman engine’s fuel tank in a matter of minutes compared with hours for a battery-powered car, and the widespread availability of liquid air.
The downside? Rather than overheating, a car fitted with a Dearman engine could overcool on a hot summer’s day. If you see the car’s bonnet up and steaming on the side of the freeway, it will be for an entirely different reason.