Wankel engine

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A Wankel engine in Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany
The Mazda RX-8, a sports car powered by a Wankel engine
File:MyPicClassic.jpg
Norton Classic air-cooled twin-rotor machine

The Wankel engine is a type of internal combustion engine using an eccentric rotary design to convert pressure into a rotating motion instead of using reciprocating pistons. Its four-stroke cycle takes place in a space between the inside of an oval-like epitrochoid-shaped housing and a rotor that is similar in shape to a Reuleaux triangle but with sides that are somewhat flatter. The very compact Wankel engine delivers smooth high-rpm power. It is commonly called a rotary engine, though this name applies also to other completely different designs. It is the only internal combustion engine invented in the twentieth century to go into production.[1]

The engine was invented by German engineer Felix Wankel. He received his first patent for the engine in 1929, began development in the early 1950s at NSU, completing a working prototype in 1957.[1] NSU then licensed the concept to companies around the world, which have continued to improve the design.

Thanks to their compact design, Wankel rotary engines have been installed in a variety of vehicles and devices including automobiles, motorcycles, racers, aircraft, go-karts, jet skis, snowmobiles, chain saws, and auxiliary power units. Perhaps the greatest exponent of the Wankel engine has been the Japanese company Mazda.

Contents

History

First DKM Wankel Engine DKM 54 (Drehkolbenmotor), at the Deutsches Museum in Bonn, Germany
First KKM Wankel Engine NSU KKM 57P (Kreiskolbenmotor), at Autovision und Forum, Germany

In 1951, the German engineer Felix Wankel began development of the engine at NSU Motorenwerke AG, where he first conceived his rotary engine in 1954 (DKM 54, Drehkolbenmotor). The so-called KKM 57 (the Wankel rotary engine, Kreiskolbenmotor) was constructed by NSU engineer Hanns Dieter Paschke in 1957 without the knowledge of Felix Wankel, who remarked "you've turned my race horse into a plow mare".[2] The first working prototype DKM 54 was running on February 1, 1957 at the NSU research and development department Versuchsabteilung TX.[3] It produced 21 horsepower; unlike modern Wankel engines, both the rotor and the housing rotated.[1]

Considerable effort went into designing rotary engines in the 1950s and 1960s. They were of particular interest because they were smooth and quiet running, and because of the reliability resulting from their simplicity. An early problem of buildup of cracks in the epitrochoid surface was solved by installing the spark plugs in a separate metal piece instead of screwing them directly into the block. A later alternative solution to spark plug boss cooling was provided by variable coolant velocity scheme for water cooled rotaries which has had widespread use and was patented by Curtiss-Wright (U.S. Patent 3,007,460, M. Bentele, C.Jones, F.P. Sollinger, 11/7/61 and 3,155,085, C. Jones, R.E. Mount, 4/29/63) and 3,196,850, C.Jones,7/27/65), with the last-listed for better air-cooled engine spark plug boss cooling. These approaches did not require a high conductivity copper insert but did not preclude the use.

Among the manufacturers signing licensing agreements to develop Wankel engines were Alfa Romeo, American Motors, Citroen, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Suzuki, and Toyota.[1] In the United States, in 1959 under license from NSU, Curtiss-Wright pioneered improvements in the basic engine design. In Britain, in the 1960s, Rolls Royce Motor Car Division pioneered a two-stage diesel version of the Wankel engine.[4]

Also in Britain, Norton Motorcycles developed a Wankel rotary engine for motorcycles, based on the Sachs air cooled Wankel that powered the DKW/Hercules W-2000 motorcycle, which was included in their Commander and F1; Suzuki also made a production motorcycle with a Wankel engine, the RE-5, where they used ferrotic alloy apex seals and an NSU rotor in a successful attempt to prolong the engine's life. In 1971 and 1972 Arctic Cat produced snowmobiles powered by 303 cc Wankel rotary engines manufactured by Sachs in Germany. Deere & Company designed a version that was capable of using a variety of fuels. The design was proposed as the power source for United States Marine Corps combat vehicles and other equipment in the late 1980s.[5]

Mazda and NSU signed a study contract to develop the Wankel engine in 1961 and competed to bring the first Wankel powered automobile to market. Although Mazda produced an experimental Wankel that year, NSU was first with a Wankel automobile on sale, the sporty NSU Spider in 1964; Mazda countered with a display of two and four rotor Wankel engines at that year's Tokyo Motor Show.[1] In 1967, NSU began production of a Wankel engined luxury car, the Ro 80.[6] However, problems with apex seal wear led to frequent engine failure, which led to large warranty costs for NSU, and curtailed further Wankel engine development.[1]

Mazda's first Wankel engine, at the Mazda Museum in Hiroshima, Japan

Mazda, however, claimed to have solved the apex seal problem, and was able to run test engines at high speed for 300 hours without failure.[1] After years of development, Mazda's first Wankel engine car was the 1967 Cosmo 110S. The company followed with a number of Wankel ("rotary" in the company's terminology) vehicles, including a bus and a pickup truck. Customers often cited the cars' smoothness of operation. However, Mazda chose a method to comply with hydrocarbon emission standards that, while less expensive to produce, increased fuel consumption, just before a sharp rise in fuel prices. Mazda later abandoned the Wankel in most of their automotive designs, but continued using it in their RX-7 sports car until August 2002 (RX-7 importation for Canada ceased with only the 1993 year being sold. The USA ended with the 1994 model year with remaining unsold stock being carried over as the '1995' year.). The company normally used two-rotor designs, but the 1991 Eunos Cosmo used a twin-turbo three-rotor engine. In 2003, Mazda introduced the Renesis engine with the RX-8. The Renesis engine relocated the ports for exhaust and intake from the periphery of the rotary housing to the sides, allowing for larger overall ports, better airflow, and further power gains. Early Wankel engines had also side intake and exhaust ports, but the concept was abandoned because of carbon buildup in ports and side of rotor. The Renesis engine solved the problem by using a keystone scraper side seal.[7] The Renesis is capable of delivering 238 hp (177 kW) with better fuel economy, reliability, and environmental friendliness than previous Mazda rotary engines,[8] all from a nominal 1.3 L displacement.

In 1961, the Soviet research organization of NATI, NAMI and VNIImotoprom started experimental development, and created experimental engines with different technologies.[9]

Soviet automobile manufacturer AvtoVAZ also experimented with the use of Wankel engines in cars but without the benefit of a license.[10] In 1974 they created a special engine design bureau, which in 1978 designed an engine designated as VAZ-311. In 1980, the company started delivering Wankel-powered VAZ-2106s (VAZ-411 engine with two-rotors) and Ladas, mostly to security services, of which about 200 were made.[11][12] The next models were the VAZ-4132 and VAZ-415. Aviadvigatel, the Soviet aircraft engine design bureau, is known to have produced Wankel engines with electronic injection for aircraft and helicopters, though little specific information has surfaced.

Although many manufacturers licensed the design, including Citroën with their M35 and GS Birotor, using engines produced by Comotor, General Motors, which seems to have concluded that the Wankel engine was slightly more expensive to build than an equivalent reciprocating engine, although claiming having solved the fuel economy issue, but failed in obtaining acceptable exhaust emissions, and Mercedes-Benz which used it for their C111 concept car, only Mazda has produced Wankel engines in large numbers. American Motors (AMC) was so convinced "...that the rotary engine will play an important role as a powerplant for cars and trucks of the future...", according to Chairman Roy D. Chapin Jr., that the smallest U.S. automaker signed an agreement in February 1973, after a year's negotiations, to build Wankels for both passenger cars and Jeeps, as well as the right to sell any rotary engines it produces to other companies.[13][14] It even designed the unique Pacer around the engine, even though by then, AMC had decided to buy the Wankel engines from GM instead of building them itself. However, GM's engines had not reached production when the Pacer was to hit the showrooms. Part of the demise of this feature was the 1973 oil crisis with rising fuel prices, and also concerns about proposed US emission standards legislation. General Motors' Wankel did not comply with those emission standards, so in 1974 the company canceled its development, although GM claimed having solved the fuel consumption problem; unfortunately, they just published one SAE paper on the results of their research. This meant the Pacer had to be reconfigured to house AMC's venerable AMC Straight-6 engine with rear-wheel drive.

Design

The Wankel cycle. The "A" marks one of the three apexes of the rotor. The "B" marks the eccentric shaft and the white portion is the lobe of the eccentric shaft. The shaft turns three times for each rotation of the rotor around the lobe and once for each orbital revolution around the eccentric shaft.

In the Wankel engine, the four strokes of a typical Otto cycle occur in the space between a three-sided symmetric rotor and the inside of a housing. The expansion phase of the Wankel cycle is much longer than that of the Otto cycle.[15] In the basic single-rotor Wankel engine, the oval-like epitrochoid-shaped housing surrounds a rotor which is triangular with bow-shaped flanks (often confused with a Reuleaux triangle,[16] a three-pointed curve of constant width, but with the bulge in the middle of each side a bit more flattened). The theoretical shape of the rotor between the fixed corners is the result of a minimization of the volume of the geometric combustion chamber and a maximization of the compression ratio, respectively.[15] The symmetric curve connecting two arbitrary apexes of the rotor is maximized in the direction of the inner housing shape with the constraint that it not touch the housing at any angle of rotation (an arc is not a solution of this optimization problem).

The central drive shaft, called the eccentric shaft or E-shaft, passes through the center of the rotor and is supported by fixed bearings.[17] The rotors ride on eccentrics (analogous to cranks) integral to the eccentric shaft (analogous to a crankshaft). The rotors both rotate around the eccentrics and make orbital revolutions around the eccentric shaft. Seals at the corners of the rotor seal against the periphery of the housing, dividing it into three moving combustion chambers.[15] The rotation of each rotor on its own axis is caused and controlled by a pair of synchronizing gears[17] A fixed gear mounted on one side of the rotor housing engages a ring gear attached to the rotor and ensures the rotor moves exactly 1/3 turn for each turn of the eccentric shaft. The power output of the engine is not transmitted through the synchronizing gears.[17] The force of gas pressure on the rotor (to a first approximation) goes directly to the center of the eccentric, part of the output shaft.

The best way to visualize the action of the engine in the animation at left is to look not at the rotor itself, but the cavity created between it and the housing. The Wankel engine is actually a variable-volume progressing-cavity system. Thus there are 3 cavities per housing, all repeating the same cycle. Note as well that points A and B on the rotor and e-shaft turn at different speed, point B moves 3 times faster than point A, so that one full orbit of the rotor equates to 3 turns of the e-shaft.

As the rotor rotates and orbitally revolves, each side of the rotor is brought closer to and then away from the wall of the housing, compressing and expanding the combustion chamber like the strokes of a piston in a reciprocating engine. The power vector of the combustion stage goes through the center of the offset lobe.

While a four-stroke piston engine makes one combustion stroke per cylinder for every two rotations of the crankshaft (that is, one-half power stroke per crankshaft rotation per cylinder), each combustion chamber in the Wankel generates one combustion stroke per each driveshaft rotation, i.e. one power stroke per rotor orbital revolution and three power strokes per rotor rotation. Thus, power output of a Wankel engine is generally higher than that of a four-stroke piston engine of similar engine displacement in a similar state of tune; and higher than that of a four-stroke piston engine of similar physical dimensions and weight.

Wankel engines also generally have a much higher redline than a reciprocating engine of similar power output. This is in part because the smoothness inherent in circular motion, but especially because they do not have highly stressed parts such as a crankshaft or connecting rods. Eccentric shafts do not have the stress-raising internal corners of crankshafts. The redline of a rotary engine is limited by wear of the synchronizing gears. Hardened steel gears are used for extended operation above 7000 or 8000 rpm. Mazda Wankel engines in auto racing are operated above 10,000 rpm. In aircraft they are used conservatively, up to 6500 or 7500 rpm. However, as gas pressure participates in seal efficiency, running a Wankel engine at high rpm under no load conditions can destroy the engine.

National agencies that tax automobiles according to displacement and regulatory bodies in automobile racing variously consider the Wankel engine to be equivalent to a four-stroke engine of 1.5 to 2 times the displacement; some racing series ban it altogether.[18]

Engineering

Apex seals, left NSU Ro80 Serie and Research and right Mazda 12A and 13B
Left Mazda old L10A Camber axial cooling, middle Audi NSU EA871 axial water cooling only hot bow, right Diamond Engines Wankel radial cooling only in the hot bow

Felix Wankel managed to overcome most of the problems that made previous rotary engines fail by developing a configuration with vane seals that had a tip radius equal to the amount of "oversize" of the rotor housing form, as compared to the theoretical epitrochoid, to minimize radial apex seal motion plus introducing a cylindrical gas-loaded apex pin which abutted all sealing elements to seal around the 3 planes at each rotor apex. .[19]

Rotary engines have a thermodynamic problem not found in reciprocating four-stroke engines in that their "cylinder block" operates at steady state, with intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust occurring at fixed housing locations for all "cylinders". In contrast, reciprocating engines perform these four strokes in one chamber, so that extremes of "freezing" intake and "flaming" exhaust are averaged and shielded by a boundary layer from overheating working parts.

The boundary layer shields and the oil film act as thermal insulation, leading to a low temperature of the lubricating film (max. ~200 °C/400 °F) on a water-cooled Wankel engine. This gives a more constant surface temperature. The temperature around the spark plug is about the same as the temperature in the combustion chamber of a reciprocating engine. With circumferential or axial flow cooling, the temperature difference remains tolerable.[20][21][22][23]

Four-stroke reciprocating engines are less suitable for hydrogen. The hydrogen can misfire on hot parts like the exhaust valve and spark plugs. Another problem concerns the hydrogenate attack on the lubricating film in reciprocating engines. In a Wankel engine, this problem is circumvented by using a ceramic apex seal against a ceramic surface: there is no oil film to suffer hydrogenate attack. Since ceramic piston rings are not available as of 2009Template:DMCA, the problem remains with the reciprocating engine. The piston shell must be lubricated and cooled with oil. This substantially increases the lubricating oil consumption in a four-stroke hydrogen engine.[24][25]

Materials

Unlike a piston engine, where the cylinder is cooled by the incoming charge after being heated by combustion, Wankel rotor housings are constantly heated on one side and cooled on the other, leading to high local temperatures and unequal thermal expansion. While this places high demands on the materials used, the simplicity of the Wankel makes it easier to use alternative materials like exotic alloys and ceramics. With water cooling in a radial or axial flow direction, with the hot water from the hot bow heating the cold bow, the thermal expansion remains tolerable.[26]

Sealing

Early engine designs had a high incidence of sealing loss, both between the rotor and the housing and also between the various pieces making up the housing. Also, in earlier model Wankel engines carbon particles could become trapped between the seal and the casing, jamming the engine and requiring a partial rebuild. It was common for very early Mazda engines to require rebuilding after 50,000 miles (80,000 km). Further sealing problems arise from the uneven thermal distribution within the housings causing distortion and loss of sealing and compression. This thermal distortion also causes uneven wear between the apex seal and the rotor housing, quite evident on higher mileage engines. The problem is exacerbated when the engine is stressed before reaching operating temperature. However, Mazda Wankel engines have solved these problems. Current engines have nearly 100 seal-related parts.[1]

The problem of clearance for hot rotor apices passing between the axially closer side housings in the cooler intake lobe areas was dealt with by using an axial rotor pilot, radially inboard of the oils seals plus improved inertia oil cooling of the rotor interior ( C-W patents 3,261,542, C. Jones, 5/8/63, 3,176,915, M. Bentele, C.Jones. A.H. Raye. 7/2/62)

Fuel consumption and emissions

Just as the shape of the Wankel combustion chamber is resistant to preignition and will run on lower-octane rating gasoline than a comparable piston engine,[27] it also leads to relatively incomplete combustion of the air-fuel charge, with a larger amount of unburned hydrocarbons released into the exhaust. The exhaust is, however, relatively low in NOx emissions; this allowed Mazda to meet the United States Clean Air Act of 1970 in 1973 with a simple and inexpensive 'thermal reactor' (an enlarged open chamber in the exhaust manifold) by paradoxically enriching the air-fuel ratio to the point where the unburned hydrocarbons (HC) in the exhaust would support complete combustion in the thermal reactor; while piston-engine cars required expensive catalytic converters to deal with both unburned hydrocarbons and NOx emissions. This raised fuel consumption, however, (already a weak point for the Wankel engine) at the same time that the oil crisis of 1973 raised the price of gasoline. Mazda was able to improve the fuel efficiency of the thermal reactor system by 40% by the time of introduction of the RX-7 in 1978, but eventually shifted to the catalytic converter system.[17] According to the Curtiss-Wright research, the extreme that controls the amount of unburned HC in the exhaust is the rotor surface temperature, higher temperatures producing less HC.[28] They showed also that the rotor can be widened. Quenching is the dominant source of HC at high speeds, and leakage at low speeds.[29] Automobile Wankel rotary engines are high speed engines, however, it was shown that an early opening of the intake port, and long intake ducts can provide the required amount of torque at low r.p.m. ,and thus elasticity. The shape and positioning of rotor recess-combustion chamber- influences emissions and fuel use, the MDR being chosen as a compromise.[30]

In Mazda's RX-8 with the Renesis engine, fuel consumption is now within normal limits while passing California State emissions requirements, including California's Low Emissions Vehicle or LEV standards. The exhaust ports, which in earlier Mazda rotaries were located in the rotor housings, were moved to the sides of the combustion chamber. This approach allowed Mazda to eliminate overlap between intake and exhaust port openings, while simultaneously increasing exhaust port area. The side port trapped the unburned fuel in the chamber, decreased the oil consumption, and improved the combustion stability in the low-speed and light load range. The HC emissions from the side exhaust port Wankel engine is 35 to 50 percent less than those from the peripheral exhaust port Wankel engine.[31][32]

Advantages

NSU Wankel Spider, the first line of cars sold with a rotor Wankel engine
Mazda Cosmo, the first series two rotor Wankel engine sports car

Wankel engines are considerably lighter, simpler, and contain far fewer moving parts than piston engines of equivalent power output. For instance, because valving is accomplished by simple ports cut into the walls of the rotor or side housings, they have no valves or complex valve trains; in addition, since the rotor rides directly on a large bearing on the output shaft, there are no connecting rods and there is no crankshaft. The elimination of reciprocating mass and the elimination of the most highly stressed and failure prone parts of piston engines gives the Wankel engine high reliability, a smoother flow of power, and a high power-to-weight ratio.

The surface/volume-ratio problem is so complex that one cannot make a direct comparison between a reciprocating piston engine and a Wankel engine in terms of the surface/volume-ratio. The flow velocity and the heat losses behave quite differently. Surface temperatures behave absolutely differently; the film of oil in the Wankel engine acts as insulation. Engines with a higher compression ratio have a worse surface/volume-ratio. The surface/volume-ratio of a Diesel engine is much worse than a gasoline engine, but Diesel engines are well known for a higher efficiency factor than gasoline engines. Thus, engines with equal power should be compared: a naturally aspirated 1.3-liter Wankel engine with a naturally aspirated 1.3-liter four-stroke reciprocating piston engine with equal power. But such a four-stroke engine is not possible and needs twice the displacement for the same power as a Wankel engine. The extra or "empty" stroke(s) should not be ignored, as a 4-stroke cylinder produces a power stroke only every other rotation of the crankshaft. In actuality, this doubles the real surface/volume-ratio for the four-stroke reciprocating piston engine and the demand of displacement.[33][34] The Wankel, therefore, has higher volumetric efficiency and a lower pumping loss through the absence of choking valves.[35] Because of the quasi-overlap of the power strokes that cause the smoothness of the engine and the avoidance of the 4-stroke cycle in a reciprocating engine, the Wankel engine is very quick to react to throttle changes and is able to quickly deliver a surge of power when the demand arises, especially at higher rpm. This difference is more pronounced when compared to four-cylinder reciprocating engines and less pronounced when compared to higher cylinder counts.

In addition to the removal of internal reciprocating stresses by virtue of the complete removal of reciprocating internal parts typically found in a piston engine, the Wankel engine is constructed with an iron rotor within a housing made of aluminium, which has a greater coefficient of thermal expansion. This ensures that even a severely overheated Wankel engine cannot seize, as would be likely to occur in an overheated piston engine. This is a substantial safety benefit of use in aircraft. In addition, valves and valve trains that do not exist cannot burn out, jam, break, or malfunction in any way, again increasing safety.

A further advantage of the Wankel engine for use in aircraft is the fact that a Wankel engine generally has a smaller frontal area than a piston engine of equivalent power, allowing a more aerodynamic nose to be designed around it. The simplicity of design and smaller size of the Wankel engine also allows for savings in construction costs, compared to piston engines of comparable power output.

Wankel engines that operate within their original design parameters are almost immune to catastrophic failure. A Wankel engine that loses compression, cooling or oil pressure will lose a large amount of power, and will die over a short period of time; however, it will usually continue to produce some power during that time. Piston engines under the same circumstances are prone to seizing or breaking parts that almost certainly results in major internal damage of the engine and an instant loss of power. For this reason, Wankel engines are very well suited to snowmobiles, which often take users into remote places where a failure could result in frostbite or death, and aircraft, where abrupt failure is likely to lead to a crash or to force an improvised emergency ground landing or ditching (i.e. landing onto or into water by a plane not equipped with pontoons or other means for normal water landings).

Due to a 50% longer stroke duration compared to a four-cycle engine, there is more time to complete the combustion. This leads to greater suitability for direct injection. A Wankel rotary engine has stronger flows of air-fuel mixture and a longer operating cycle than a reciprocating engine, so it realizes concomitantly thorough mixing of hydrogen and air. The result is a homogeneous mixture, which is crucial for hydrogen combustion.[36]

Disadvantages

Rolls Royce R6 two stage Wankel Diesel engine

Although in two dimensions the seal system of a Wankel looks to be even simpler than that of a corresponding multi-cylinder piston engine, in three dimensions the opposite is true. As well as the rotor apex seals evident in the conceptual diagram, the rotor must also seal against the chamber ends.

Piston rings are not perfect seals: each has a gap to allow for expansion. The sealing at the Wankel apexes is less critical, as leakage is between adjacent chambers on adjacent strokes of the cycle, rather than to the crankcase. However, the less effective sealing of the Wankel is one factor reducing its efficiency, limiting its use mainly to applications such as racing engines and sports vehicles where neither efficiency nor long engine life are major considerations. Comparison tests have shown that the Mazda rotary powered RX-8 uses more fuel than a heavier vehicle powered by larger displacement V-8 engine for similar performance results.[37]

The time available for fuel to be port-injected into a Wankel engine is significantly shorter, compared to four-stroke piston engines, due to the way the three chambers rotate. The fuel-air mixture cannot be pre-stored as there is no intake valve. Also the Wankel engine, compared to a piston engine, has 50% longer stroke duration. The four Otto cycles last 1080° for a Wankel engine versus 720° for a four-stroke reciprocating piston engine.

There are various methods of calculating the engine displacement of a Wankel. The Japanese regulations for calculating displacements for engine ratings use the volume displacement of one rotor face only, and the auto industry commonly accepts this method as the standard for calculating the displacement of a rotary. However, when compared on the basis of specific output, the convention results in large imbalances in favor of the Wankel motor.

For comparison purposes between a Wankel Rotary engine and a piston engine, displacement and corresponding power output can more accurately be compared on the basis of displacement per revolution of the eccentric shaft. A calculation of this form dictates that a two rotor Wankel displacing 654 cc per face will have a displacement of 1.3 liters per every rotation of the eccentric shaft (only two total faces, one face per rotor going through a full power stroke) and 2.6 liters after two revolutions (four total faces, two faces per rotor going through a full power stroke). The results are directly comparable to a 2.6-liter piston engine with an even number of cylinders in a conventional firing order, which will likewise displace 1.3 liters through its power stroke after one revolution of the crankshaft, and 2.6 liters through its power strokes after two revolutions of the crankshaft. A Wankel Rotary engine is still a 4-stroke engine and pumping losses from non-power strokes still apply, but the absence of throttling valves and a 50% longer stroke duration result in a significantly lower pumping loss compared against a four-stroke reciprocating piston engine. Measuring a Wankel rotary engine in this way more accurately explains its specific output, as the volume of its air fuel mixture put through a complete power stroke per revolution is directly responsible for torque and thus power produced.

The trailing side of the rotary engine's combustion chamber develops a squeeze stream which pushes back the flamefront. With the conventional two-spark-plug or one-spark-plug system and homogenous mixture, this squeeze stream prevents the flame from propagating to the combustion chamber's trailing side in the mid and high engine speed ranges. This is why there can be more carbon monoxide and unburnt hydrocarbons in a Wankel's exhaust stream. A side-port exhaust, as is used in the Renesis, avoids this because the unburned mixture cannot escape. The Mazda 26B avoided this issue through a 3-spark plug ignition system. (As a result, at the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race in 1991, the 26B had significantly lower fuel consumption than the competing reciprocating piston engines. All competitors had the same amount of fuel available, because of the Le Mans 24 hour limited fuel quantity rule.)[38] A peripheral intake port gives the highest MEP, however, side intake porting produces a more steady idle.[39]

All Mazda-made Wankel rotaries, including the new Renesis found in the RX-8, burn a small quantity of oil by design; it is metered into the combustion chamber to preserve the apex seals. Owners must periodically add small amounts of oil, marginally increasing running costs — though it is still reasonable and comparable in some instances when compared to many reciprocating piston engines.

Applications

Automobile racing

In the racing world, Mazda has had substantial success with two-rotor, three-rotor, and four-rotor cars. Private racers have also had considerable success with stock and modified Mazda Wankel-engine cars.[40]

The Sigma MC74 powered by a Mazda 12A engine was the first engine and only team from outside Western Europe or the United States to finish the entire 24 hours of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, in 1974. Mazda is the only team from outside Western Europe or the United States to have won Le Mans outright and the only non-piston engine ever to win Le Mans, which the company accomplished in 1991 with their four-rotor 787B (2,622 cc/160 cu in—actual displacement, rated by FIA formula at 4,708 cc/287 cu in). The following year, a planned rule change at Le Mans made the Mazda 787B ineligible to race anymore due to weight advantages.

The Mazda RX-7 has won more IMSA races in its class than any other model of automobile, with its one hundredth victory on September 2, 1990. Following that, the RX-7 won its class in the IMSA 24 Hours of Daytona race ten years in a row, starting in 1982. The RX7 won the IMSA Grand Touring Under Two Liter (GTU) championship each year from 1980 through 1987, inclusive.

Formula Mazda Racing features open-wheel race cars with Mazda Wankel engines, adaptable to both oval tracks and road courses, on several levels of competition. Since 1991, the professionally organized Star Mazda Series has been the most popular format for sponsors, spectators, and upward bound drivers. The engines are all built by one engine builder, certified to produce the prescribed power, and sealed to discourage tampering. They are in a relatively mild state of racing tune, so that they are extremely reliable and can go years between motor rebuilds.[41]

The Malibu Grand Prix chain, similar in concept to commercial recreational kart racing tracks, operates several venues in the United States where a customer can purchase several laps around a track in a vehicle very similar to open wheel racing vehicles, but powered by a small Curtiss-Wright rotary engine.

In engines having more than two rotors, or two rotor race engines intended for high-rpm use, a multi-piece eccentric shaft may be used, allowing additional bearings between rotors. While this approach does increase the complexity of the eccentric shaft design, it has been used successfully in the Mazda's production three-rotor 20B-REW engine, as well as many low volume production race engines. (The C-111-2 4 Rotor Mercedes-Benz eccentric shaft for the KE Serie 70, Typ DB M950 KE409 is made in one piece. Mercedes-Benz used split bearings.)

Motorcycle engines

Norton Interpol2 prototype

From 1974 to 1977 Hercules produced a limited number of motorcycles powered by Wankel engines.[42]

In the early 1980s, David Garside's BSA twin-rotor engine reached production at Norton as the air-cooled twin-rotor Norton Classic. The Classic was succeeded by the later liquid-cooled Norton Commander and the Interpol, a police version. (These machines used motor tooling and blank apex seals).[43] The Norton engine later formed the basis for the MidWest AE series aero-engine.

The Suzuki RE5 single-rotor motorcycle was produced from 1975 to 1976. It proved to be a complex design, with liquid cooling and oil cooling, and multiple lubrication and carburetion systems. It worked well and was smooth, but being rather heavy and having a modest 62 bhp power output, it did not sell well.[44]

Dutch motorcycle importer and manufacturer van Veen produced small quantities of their dual rotor Wankel-engined OCR-1000 between 1978 and 1980, using surplus Comotor engines.

However, from the 1980s onwards, rotary engines have not been produced for sale to the general public for road use. Norton has used a Wankel engine in several models including the Norton F1, F1 Sports, RC588, RCW588, NRS588, most notably Steve Hislop riding to various victories on Norton's F1 in the TT in 1992. Norton now makes a 588cc twin-rotor model called the NRV588 and is in the process of making a 700cc version called the NRV700.[45]

Aircraft engines

Diamond DA20 with Diamond Engines Wankel
Sikorsky Cypher UAV powered with a UEL AR801 Wankel engine

File:ARV Midwest.pdf

In principle, a Wankel engine should be ideal for light aircraft, as it is light, compact, almost vibrationless and has a high power-to-weight ratio. Further aviation benefits of a Wankel engine include: (i) rotors cannot seize, since rotor casings expand more than rotors; (ii) a Wankel is not susceptible to "shock-cooling" during descent; (iii) a Wankel does not require an enriched mixture for cooling at high power; (iv) having no reciprocating parts, it is less vulnerable to damage during "over-revving" (the main rev-limit being the strength of the main bearings). Unlike the case with cars (such as the NSU Ro 80) and motorcycles, a Wankel aero-engine will (because of the time taken for pre-flight checks) inevitably be sufficiently warm before full power is asked of it. A Wankel aero-engine spends most of its working time at high power outputs, with little idling, so peripheral ports are ideal; and this makes feasible modular engines with more than two rotors. If "carb-icing" is an issue, plenty of waste engine heat is available to prevent trouble.

The first Wankel rotary-engine aircraft was the experimental Lockheed Q-Star civilian version of the United States Army's reconnaissance QT-2, basically a powered Schweizer sailplane, in 1968 or 1969. It was powered by a 185 hp (138 kW) Curtiss-Wright RC2-60 Wankel rotary engine; the same engine model was also flown in a Cessna Cardinal and other airplanes and a helicopter .[46][47]

Aircraft Wankels have made something of a comeback in recent years. None of their advantages have been lost in comparison to other engines. They are increasingly being found in roles where their compact size and quiet operation is important, notably in drones, or UAVs. Many companies and hobbyists adapt Mazda rotary engines (taken from automobiles) to aircraft use; others, including Wankel GmbH itself, manufacture Wankel rotary engines dedicated for the purpose.[48][49] One such use are the "Rotapower" engines in the Moller Skycar M400.

Wankel engines are also becoming increasingly popular in homebuilt experimental aircraft, such as the ARV Super2 which can be re-engined with the MidWest AE series aero-engine. Most are Mazda 12A and 13B automobile engines, converted to aviation use. This is a very cost-effective alternative to certified aircraft engines, providing engines ranging from 100 to 300 horsepower (220 kW) at a fraction of the cost of traditional engines. These conversions first took place in the early 1970s. With a number of these engines mounted on aircraft, as of 10 December 2006 the National Transportation Safety Board has only seven reports of incidents involving aircraft with Mazda engines, and none of these were a failure due to design or manufacturing flaws.

Peter Garrison, Contributing Editor for Flying magazine, has said that "the most promising engine for aviation use is the Mazda rotary." Mazdas have indeed worked well when converted for use in homebuilt aircraft. However, the real challenge in aviation is producing FAA-certified alternatives to the standard reciprocating engines that power most small general aviation aircraft. Mistral Engines, based in Switzerland, developed purpose-built rotaries for factory and retrofit installations on certified production aircraft. The G-190 and G-230-TS rotary engines were already flying in the experimental market, and Mistral Engines hoped for FAA and JAA certification by 2011. As of June 2010, G-300 rotary engine development ceased, with the company citing a need for cash flow to complete development.[50]

Mistral claims to have overcome the challenges of fuel consumption inherent in the rotary, at least to the extent that the engines are demonstrating specific fuel consumption within a few points of reciprocating engines of similar displacement. While fuel burn is still marginally higher than traditional engines, it is outweighed by other beneficial factors.[51][52]

At the price of increased complication for a high pressure diesel type injection system, fuel consumption in the same range as small pre-chamber automotive and industrial diesels has been demonstrated with Curtiss-Wright's Stratified Charge multi-fuel engines. while preserving the aforementioned Wankel rotary advantages ( "A Survey of Rotary Engine Developments at Rotary Power International, Inc. (RPI) from 1991 to 1997," ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) Paper presented at ASME fall 1998 meeting, " Charles Jones, John Mack; "Stratified Charge Rotary Engine Developments at JDTI (John Deere Technologies International) from 1984 to 1991." Charles Jones,1992)

Since Wankel engines operate at a relatively high rotational speed with relatively low torque, propeller aircraft must use a Propeller Speed Reduction Unit (PSRU) to keep their propellers within the proper speed range. Experimental aircraft with Wankel engines use PSRUs: for instance, the MidWest twin-rotor engine has a 2.95:1 reduction gearbox.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne have been commissioned by DARPA to develop a diesel wankel engine for use in a prototype VTOL flying car called the "Transformer".[53] The engine, based on an earlier UAV diesel wankel concept called 'EnduroCORE',[54] will utilize wankel rotors of varying sizes on a shared eccentric shaft to increase efficiency.[55] The engine is claimed to be a 'full-compression, full-expansion, diesel-cycle engine'. An October 28, 2010 patent from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, describes a Wankel engine superficially similar to Rolls-Royce's earlier prototype that required an external air compressor to achieve high enough compression for diesel-cycle combustion.[56][57] The design differs from Rolls-Royce's diesel wankel mainly by proposing an injector both in the exhaust passage between the combustor rotor and expansion rotor stages, and an injector in the expansion rotor's expansion chamber, for 'afterburning'.

The sailplane manufacturer Schleicher uses Wankel engines in their self - launching models.

Range extender

Due to the compact size and low weight of a wankel engine they have found their way into electric vehicles as range extender.
In 2010 Audi revealed that in their electric car the A1 e-tron they would have a small 250 cc Wankel engine running at 5,000 rpm that would recharge the car's batteries as needed.[58]

In 2010 FEV Inc revealed that in their electric version of the Fiat 500 a wankel engine would be used as range extender as well.[59]

The DA36 E-Star, an aircraft designed by Siemens, Diamond Aircraft and EADS, employs a series hybrid powertrain, with a wankel engine as internal combustion engine.[60]

Other uses

UEL UAV-741 Wankel engine for a UAV

Small Wankel engines are being found increasingly in other roles, such as go-karts,[61][62] personal water craft and auxiliary power units for aircraft.[63][64] The Graupner/O.S. 49-PI is a 1.27 hp (947 W) 5 cc Wankel engine for model airplane use which has been in production essentially unchanged since 1970; even with a large muffler, the entire package weighs only 380 grams (13.4 ounces).[65][66]

The simplicity of the Wankel makes it well-suited for mini, micro, and micro-mini engine designs. The Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) Rotary Engine Lab at the University of California, Berkeley has been developing Wankel engines of down to 1 mm in diameter with displacements less than 0.1 cc. Materials include silicon and motive power includes compressed air. The goal is to eventually develop an internal combustion engine that will deliver 100 milliwatts of electrical power; the engine itself will serve as the rotor of the generator, with magnets built into the engine rotor itself.[67][68]

The largest Wankel engine was built by Ingersoll-Rand; available in 550 hp (410 kW) one rotor and 1,100 hp (820 kW) two rotor versions, displacing 41 liters per rotor with a rotor approximately one meter in diameter. It was available between 1975 and 1985. It was derived from a previous, unsuccessful Curtiss-Wright design, which failed because of a well-known problem with all internal combustion engines: the fixed speed at which the flame front travels limits the distance combustion can travel from the point of ignition in a given time, and thereby limiting the maximum size of the cylinder or rotor chamber which can be used. This problem was solved by limiting the engine speed to only 1200 rpm and the use of natural gas as fuel; this was particularly well chosen, since one of the major uses of the engine was to drive compressors on natural gas pipelines.[69] Yanmar Diesel of Japan, produced some small, charge cooled rotor rotary engines for uses such as chainsaws and outboard engines,[70] some of their contributions are that the LDR (rotor recess in the leading edge of combustion chamber) engines had better exhaust emissions profiles, and that reed-valve controlled intake ports improve part-load and low RPM performance.(Kojiro Yamaoka & Hiroshi Tado, SAE paper 720466, 1972)

Non-internal combustion

In addition for use as an internal combustion engine, the basic Wankel design has also been utilized for gas compressors, and superchargers for internal combustion engines, but in these cases, although the design still offers advantages in reliability, the basic advantages of the Wankel in size and weight over the four-stroke internal combustion engine are irrelevant. In a design using a Wankel supercharger on a Wankel engine, the supercharger is twice the size of the engine.

The Wankel design is used in the seat belt pre-tensioner system[71] of some Mercedes-Benz[72] and Volkswagen[73] cars. When the deceleration sensors sense a potential crash, small explosive cartridges are triggered electrically and the resulting pressurized gas feeds into tiny Wankel engines which rotate to take up the slack in the seat belt systems, anchoring the driver and passengers firmly in the seat before a collision.[74]

Notes

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  2. ""Ihr habt aus meinem Rennpferd einen Ackergaul gemacht!" German verbatim quote". Der-wankelmotor.de. http://www.der-wankelmotor.de/Wankelmotor/wankelmotor.html. Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
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  4. R1 two stage compound diesel Wankel 1966. Retrieved on September 27, 2008. (German)
  5. Hege, John B. (2002). The Wankel Rotary Engine. McFarland. pp. 158–9. ISBN 9780786411771. http://books.google.com/?id=1UOduBQ8f7IC&pg=PA158&lpg=PA158&dq=Deere+%26+Company+Wankel+engine. 
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  7. Masaki Ohkubo et al., SAE paper 2004-01-1790
  8. rotary2.pdf Mazda's Rotary Engine for the Next Millennium RENESIS, p. 6–7, 1999. Mazda.
  9. Иван Пятов.РПД изнутри и снаружи, Двигатель №5–6 (11–12) сентябрь-декабрь 2000 (Russian)
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References

</dl>
  • Arnold E. Biermann & Hermann H. Ellerbrock Jr.: "The design of fins for air cooled cylinders", NACA Report Nº 726, 1939 (free download from NASA website)
  • Kenichi Yamamoto "Rotary Engine", Toyo Kogyo Co. Ltd.: 1969 and 1981 Editions
  • Alfred EP Grazen: patents CA 602098 and CA 651826 (Plating for working housing surface)
  • Societe Anonyme Automobiles Citroen: Spanish patents P0374366 and P0375053 (www.oepm.es)

on improvements in procedures for covering a friction surface, 1969 (Nickasil)

  • R.F. Ansdale: "The Wankel RC Engine, Design and Performance", Iliffe, 1968

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