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TSINGHUA SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ISSN 1007-0214 17/21 pp381-386 V o l u m e 10, N u m b e r 3 , J u n e 2 0 0 5

Novel Micro Free-Piston Swing Engine and Its Feasibility Validation

ZHANG Shimin (5M&), WANG Jinsong GUO Zhiping ( # 4 ^ )

Institute of Manufacturing Engineering, Department of Precision Instruments and Mechanology, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
Abstract: T o develop high energy-density micro power generation systems, a novel two-stroke cycle micro

free-piston s w i n g e n g i n e ( M F P S E ) , inspired by t h e c o n c e p t of t h e micro internal c o m b u s t i o n s w i n g e n g i n e , is p r o p o s e d t o s u p p l y m e c h a n i c a l p o w e r f o r a m i c r o p o w e r g e n e r a t i o n s y s t e m . T h e w o r k i n g p r i n c i p l e , g a s e x c h a n g e a n d ignition t i m i n g c o n t r o l c y c l e s , a n d s t r u c t u r e a n d o p e r a t i o n a d v a n t a g e s o f t h e M F P S E a r e d i s c u s s e d in d e t a i l . A p r o t o t y p e w h e r e t h e t i m i n g c o n t r o l a n d g e o m e t r i c p a r a m e t e r s a r e d e s i g n e d w i t h refere n c e t o a t r a d i t i o n a l t w o - s t r o k e c y c l e i n t e r n a l c o m b u s t i o n e n g i n e is f a b r i c a t e d . T h e s u c c e s s f u l ignition e x p e r i m e n t s h o w s t h a t t h i s n e w c o n c e p t e n g i n e is f e a s i b l e a n d is w o r t h y o f f u r t h e r s t u d y . Key words: two-stroke cycle; free-piston engine; swing output

As a result of the continuous and rapid development of portable electronic devices, high energy-density power sources are urgently required. However, the energydensity of chemical storage cells widely used by portable electronic devices has only increased by a factor of two over the last decades; far less than the increased demand for higher density power sources over the same period. As an alternative to improving the energy-density of chemical storage cells, scientists have also started in recent years to develop new power s o u r c e s

generation systems. However, at present, the approach is largely focused on scaling down the existing advanced electrothe particular macroscale power generation systems into microscale versions, with the hope of using more manufacturing mechanical production techniques, systems such as micro to these (MEMS), In fact,



combustion systems do not appear to be especially well-suited for miniaturized operation, because most of their major properly. It components is apparent must be retained that the ideal at the internal reduced scale in order for the system to function combustion system specifically intended for operation at the micro-scale level is likely to be very different from that running best at the macro-scale level. Moreover, as a consequence of the limited availability of feasible manufacturing processes, the scale-down approach requires most of the time and the effort to be spent on h o w to build the scale-down components before a point can be reached where the system can be studied as a whole. To overcome the problems met in the efforts of miniaturizing large scale power generation systems, Dahm et al. have developed a n e w concept micro

. In these

efforts, owing to the very high energy densities of liquid or gaseous fuels and the high energy conversion efficiency of internal combustion processes, it seems that there is most potential in employing the relatively complex internal combustion systems for power

Received: 2004-03-01 * Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 50375078) * * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: wangjs@tsinghua.edu.cn; Tel: 86-10-62797039


Tsinghua Science and Technology, June 2005, 10(3): 381 - 386

internal combustion swing engine ( M I C S E ) , which is composed of four combustion chambers in one base plate, where each operating cycle includes four strokes. The MICSE is the first engine especially designed for man-portable power generation systems. It also represents a breakthrough for realization of manportable power generation systems. Inspired by MICSE system, and in order to further simplify the structure and the control system of this type of internal combustion engine, a new micro freepiston swing engine (MFPSE) has been developed at Tsinghua University .

the swing arm by a bond. In each pre-compression chamber, there is a reed valve covering the inlet port to serve as a check valve for the pre-mixed two combustion chambers, and shared air/fuel by two mixture. The exhaust port is at the bisector of the upper combustion chambers. Along the axis of the output shaft, a front cover and a back cover are fixed on the base structure. All the axial and radial clearances between the swing arm and the base structure are 15 . It is apparent that the M F P S E is a two-cylinder super-charged micro internal combustion engine. It can be envisaged as two crankcase-scavenged structure. 1.2 Working principle internal combustion engines in parallel designed on one base

MFPSE Structure Description and Working Principle

Structure description


The working process and the flow directions are illusIn contrast to the MICSE, the M F P S E is a two-stroke cycle micro internal combustion swing engine, where the mechanical power is also output by means of a swing instead of by rotation as in traditional internal combustion engines. A schematic diagram of the structure of the M F P S E is illustrated in F i g . l .
Exhaust port Combustion chamber A Combustion chamber Spark plug tap hole Pre-compression chamber A Reed valve Pre-compression chamber Inlet port Body Transfer port A Swing arm Transfer port

trated in Fig. 2. Suppose that combustion chamber A is at the position of the top dead center (TDC)the very beginning of the combustion/expansion process. Transfer port A and exhaust port are thus closed by the swing arm (Fig. 2a); the compressed mixture is ignited by a spark plug, and the swing arm will be pushed towards the bottom dead center (BDC) of combustion chamber A. In the mean time, combustion chamber is at the position of its own BDCthe very beginning of the compression process. Transfer port and exhaust port are both opened, the scavenging process takes place, and the fresh charge sweeps the burnt gasses out from it. When pre-compression chamber A is at the beginning of the pre-compression process, the reed valve will be closed at once; the pressure of the mixture inside will increase as the swing arm moves clockwise. When pre-compression chamber is at the beginning of the pre-intake process, the reed valve will be opened by the vacuum formed in it as the swing arm moves clockwise. When the swing arm swings clockwise to the TDC of combustion chamber B, combustion chamber will begin its combustion/expansion process, exactly as for combustion chamber A (Fig. 2c). However, this time the high pressure produced in combustion chamber will push the swing arm swinging counterclockwise. In other words, the combustion chamber A and combustion chamber will repeat their stroke cycles by turn, and the oscillating mechanical power can be extracted

Fig. 1

Schematic diagram of the MFPSE

A swing arm is installed in the center of the cavity in a single base structure, dividing the cavity into four chambers. serve as The upper two chambers, the labeled two combustion chamber A and combustion chamber B, combustion chambers; lower chambers, labeled pre-compression chamber A and pre-compression chamber B, serve as pre-compressing for the fresh charge. The swing arm is also used as a sealing part between the chambers. There are two transfer ports on the hinge surface of the swing arm, symmetrically located with respect to the long axis of the swing arm. A n output shaft is fixed in the center of

Z H A N G S h i m i n ( ? & ) et a l : Novel Micro Free-Piston Swing Engine



from the output shaft continuously. One cycle will be completed from Fig. 2a to Fig. 2f, and the next cycle will be started from Fig. 2a again. The M F P S E simplifies engine timing control and there is no necessity to use any valve. More importantly, it increases the integratability of the swing-piston engine system. The engine timing control cycle for gas exchange and ignition is illustrated in Fig. 3. The ignition switch is on whenever the top dead

center is reached. It is very clear that the working process of the M F P S E is different from that of the M I C S E , even

though they have a similar appearance. The former is a parallel two-cylinder, two-stroke internal combustion engine, and the latter is a four cylinder, four stroke internal combustion engine. The differences of structure, timing control method, and working process result in different characteristics and performance.




^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ' ^"]}^^^^^^jp

(d) Exhaust flow Scavenge flow ^

(c) *~ Intake flow ^


Moving direction of the swing arm

Fig. 2

MFPSE working process



importantly, the energy released from the combustion process is converted directly into the pure momentum energy of the output shaft; no significant radial and axial force components exist during engine operation that could cause the device to vibrate. 3) The M F P S E will have a better external-load (extracting energy level) characteristic because of its unique swing motion output. One part of the energy released from the combustion process will be converted into kinetic energy of the swing arm first; the other part will be extracted from the system and the remaining part will be converted back to the system as the potential energy of the gases inside the compression chamber. When the external extracting energy level decreases, it will increase the energy converted back to the system, thereby increasing the pressure of the

The following advantages are obvious for the MFPSE. 1) The structure of the M F P S E is simple. The only moving part is the swing arm, which serves simultaneously as the sealing wall between chambers and as the mechanical energy-extracting component. Instead of exhaust valves and associated driving mechanisms, the M F P S E uses inlet ports, exhaust ports, and scavenging ports to further simplify its structure. Moreover, there is no reed valve exposed in the combustion chambers. The system reliability is greatly increased. 2) There are less vibration concerns from the M F P S E unit, because the only moving part, the swing arm, can easily be balanced dynamically. More


Tsinghua Science and Technology, June 2005, 10(3): 381 - 386

compression chamber and the compression ratio. 4) Almost all-major components of the M F P S E involve two-dimensional planar design with simple geometric shapes. There are various ways to build them. The complete system can be made in many different sizes according to the best cost-performance
Transfer port A opened

characteristics, and developed based on how much of the extracting energy is needed. 5) The control system is very simple because no solenoid valves are needed. The timing control for gas exchange is decided by the position of the swing arm.

Transfer port A closed

Exhaust port opened

Exhaust port closed

TDC, combustion chamber A

Prc-comprcssion| chamber A Combustion chamber A

Pre-compression g Combustion/Expansion


BDC, combustion chamber A

Scavenging Scavenging

Ex. 1

Pre-in take Compression


TDC, combustion chamber A 0 Ex. Sc. Sc. * Swing angle Transfer port opened Exhaust port opened

Combustion chamber Pre-compression| chamber Sc. Sc. Ex. 1

0 Compression Prc-intakc

g Combustion/Expansion Pre-compression

TYansfer port closed Exhaust port closed BDC combustion chamber TDC combustion chamber

to o > Q 3-D

Ignition switch on

Fig. 3

MFPSE timing control cycle ("Ex." represents the exhaust process, and "Sc." represents the scavenging process)






port. The thickness of the swing arm is 15 mm; the width and radius of the transfer port are 8 m m and 7 mm, respectively; and the diameter of the intake port is 6 mm. A fabricated swing arm is illustrated in Fig. 5.

systems, it seems that the M F P S E is a more practical approach for achieving robust, high energy-density, and miniaturized power generation systems.

Prototype Fabrication and Experimental Bench Build

In order to validate the feasibility of this new concept of micro free-piston swing engine, a prototype was fabricated, and an experimental bench unit was built. 2.1 Prototype fabrication

For manufacture, wire electrical discharge machining (EDM) was adopted to cut the cavity and the outline of the swing arm; the scavenging ports were also made by E D M . The geometric parameters were designed with reference to traditional two-stroke cycle engines in the MFPSE prototype ~ .
[8 10]


(d\=45 mm,


of the geometric d =36 mm, i=144,


parameters r/ =36, a =18,

2 3





h=17 mm)

geometric parameters are illustrated in Fig. 4. d\ is the base diameter of base cavity; d is the hinge diameter


Experimental bench build

of swing arm; a\ is the base cavity angle; a included angle of the swing arm; a

is the

is the included

The M F P S E is fueled by gasoline; an ignition system must also therefore be developed for the experimental

angle of exhaust port; h is the height of the exhaust

Z H A N G S h i m i n ( ? & ) et a l : Novel Micro Free-Piston Swing Engine and


Fig. 7 Experimental bench unit of the MFPSE (Outline dimension of the MFPSE: 50 m m X 5 0 m m X 3 5 mm)



From Fig. 7, it can be noticed that there are no experimental sensors fixed for test purposes; the reason is that the original goal of manufacturing the prototype
Fig. 5 A fabricated swing arm

and experimental bench unit is just to validate the feasibility of this type of micro-swing engine. It is also obvious that an M F P S E designed by means of comparison is impossible to work at its optimal state. Thus, it is not necessary to test the system thoroughly in its present form.

bench unit. The experimental ignition system (Fig. 6) consists of an encoder, an F-V module, two ignition modules, two coils, and two spark plugs. The swing motion of the M F P S E is checked by the photoelectric encoder, which is connected to the output shaft by a plastic connector. The photoelectric encoder produces two signals, named signal A and signal B, are sent to the F-V module, which can convert the frequency of the digital signal into a continuous voltage signal. Next, the voltage signal is fed to one of the ignition modules directly, and its reversed signal is fed to another. Finally, the high voltage is formed in each coil, and the spark is generated at the corresponding spark plug whenever the swing arm reaches TDC. The micro carburetor used in the M F P S E is a set assembled on a model engine for a model airplane. The completed experimental bench unit is presented in Fig. 7.
Coil Signal A Photo- i J T J T J L electric encoder


The main purpose of this work is to validate a new concept of a micro free-piston swing engine (MFPSE). The parameters obtained by introducing the design method used in traditional two-stroke cycle internal combustion engines will not result in the M F P S E working at an optimal state. The successful realization and operation of the prototype are encouraging, and further studies on its combustion process and scavenging process, as well as the thermodynamics and the fluid dynamics analyses, are being carried out. Moreover, from the structure and the operating characteristics of the MFPSE, it is already clear that the M F P S E

F-V modulel


Ignition module Ignition module A

is worthy of further study, and that it has the potential to realize practical micro power generation systems. References
[1] Spearing S M, Chen S. Micro-gas turbine engine materials and structures. In: Ceram. Eng. Sei. Proc. Westervill: American Ceramic S o c , 1997: 11-18.





Fig. 6

Schematic diagram of ignition system


Tsinghua Science and Technology, June 2005, 10(3): 381 - 386 [6] Dahm W A , Ni J, Mijit K, et al. Micro internal combustion swing engine (MICSE) for portable power generation systems (AIAA Paper 2002-0722). In : 40th Aerospace Micropower generation using Sciences Meeting and Exhibit. Reno, NV, USA, 2002. [7] Wang Jinsong, Zhang Shimin. A two-stroke cycle micro free-piston (in Chinese) [8] Hey wood J B, Sher E. The two-stroke cycle engine: Its development, operation, and design. Ann Arbor: Taylor & Francis Inc., 1999: 155-207. [9] Hey wood J B. Internal Combustion Fundamentals. New of a hydrogen and Actuator York: McGraw, 1988: 205-270. [10] Gordon . Design and simulation of two-stroke engines. Warrendale: Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., 1996: 415-462. swing engine. Chinese Patent, 02117081.9.

[2] Walther D C. MEMS opportunities in combustion driven power generation systems, http://mae.eng.uci.edu/seminars /waltherabs.html, 2002. [3] Fernandez-Pello A C. combustion: Issues and approaches. In: Proceedings of the Combustion Institute. USA: Combustion Institute, 2002: 883-898. [4] Jiang C, Prewett D, Ward C L, et al. Design of a micro Wankel rotary engine for MEMS fabrication. In: Proc. SPIEInt. Soc. Opt. Eng. USA: SPIE-Int. Soc. Opt. Eng., 2001: 54-60. [5] Mehra A, Waitz I A. Development Technical Digest, Solid-State Sensor combustor for a microfabricated gas turbine engine. In: Workshop. Hilton Head Island: Transducer Res. Found, 1998: 35-40.

Olympic Logistics Symposium Garners Global Input for 2008 Games

The first Olympic Logistics Symposium jointly sponsored by the University of North Carolina and Tsinghua University opened on Feb. 25, 2005, bringing together more than 100 domestic and foreign logistics experts to discuss the logistical challenges posed by the 2008 Olympic Games. The experts were from governments, universities, and academic research institutions throughout the world. Discussions centered on such topics as how logistics enterprises in the Chinese capital and throughout the country will design appropriate logistics plans for the Games; how advanced technology will be applied in logistics; and how the logistics experience of other countries can be put to use in the organizing of the 2008 Games. In 2004, the Engineering Department of Tsinghua organized a team of researchers to seek solutions to the logistical issues surrounding the upcoming Games. The department has taken part in the official planning projects, and has recommended a number of professors to work for the Beijing Olympic Committee. To promote the Olympic-related logistics research projects, Tsinghua University will establish a logistics research center with University of North Carolina and plan to hold the logistics symposium annually until 2008. Tsinghua Vice President Kang Kejun delivered a speech at the opening ceremony. (From http://news.tsinghua.edu.cn)