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Fundamental Explorations of Spring-Varied, Free Piston Linear Engine Devices

[+] Author Affiliations
Matthew C. Robinson, Nigel N. Clark

West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Paper No. ICEF2014-5432, pp. V002T07A004; 9 pages
  • ASME 2014 Internal Combustion Engine Division Fall Technical Conference
  • Volume 2: Instrumentation, Controls, and Hybrids; Numerical Simulation; Engine Design and Mechanical Development; Keynote Papers
  • Columbus, Indiana, USA, October 19–22, 2014
  • Conference Sponsors: Internal Combustion Engine Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4617-9
  • Copyright © 2014 by ASME


The conventional crank-based internal combustion engine faces many challenges to remain a viable option for electric power generation. Limitations in mechanical, thermal, and combustion efficiencies must be overcome by innovations in existing technologies and progress towards new ones. The free piston linear engine (FPLE) is a device with the potential to meet these challenges. Friction losses are reduced by avoiding rotational motion and linkages. Instead, electrical power is generated by the oscillation of the translator through a stator. Meanwhile, naturally variable compression ratio provides a unique platform to employ advanced combustion regimes. Possibly high variations in stroke length also result in unknown dead center piston positions and greater difficulties in compression control as compared to conventional engines. Without control, adverse occurrences such as misfire, stall, over-fueling, and rapid load changes pose greater complications for stable system operation. Based on previous research, it is believed that incorporating springs will advance former designs by both increasing system frequency and providing a restoring force to improve cycle-to-cycle stability.

Despite growing interest in the FPLE, current literature does not address the use of springs within a dual, opposed piston design. This investigation is an extension of recent efforts in the fundamental analysis of such a device. Previous work by the authors combined the dynamics of a damped, spring mass system with in-cylinder thermodynamic expressions to produce a closed-form non-dimensional model. Simulations of this model were used to describe ideal Otto cycle as the equilibrium operating point. The present work demonstrates more realistic modelling of the device in three distinct areas. In the previous model, the work term was a constant coefficient over the length of the stroke, instantaneous heat addition (representing combustion) was only seen at top dead center positions, and the use of the Otto cycle included no mechanism for heat transfer except at dead center positions. Instead, a position based sinusoid is employed for the work coefficient causing changes to the velocity and acceleration profiles. Instantaneous heat addition prior to top dead center is allowed causing the compression ratio to decrease towards stable, Otto operation. And, a simple heat transfer scheme is used to permit cylinder gas heat exchange throughout the stroke resulting in deviation from Otto operation. Regardless, simulations show that natural system stability arises under the right conditions. Highest efficiencies are achieved at a high compression ratio with minimal heat transfer and near-TDC combustion.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME
Topics: Engines , Pistons , Springs



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