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Title:
FREE PISTON ENGINES WITH SINGLE HYDRAULIC PISTON ACTUATOR AND METHODS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2012/177795
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
Free piston engines having a free piston having a first piston diameter in a cylinder with a combustion chamber on a first side of the first piston and a piston rod having a second diameter fastened to a second side of the first piston and extending to a single second piston having a third diameter smaller than the first diameter, but larger that the second diameter, the single second piston extending into a hydraulic cylinder, the second piston having a first hydraulic area defined by the third diameter in a first hydraulic chamber, and a second hydraulic area defined by the area between the third diameter and the second diameter in a second hydraulic chamber, and valving to control the coupling of a high pressure, a low pressure and a reservoir to the first and second hydraulic chambers to control the top and bottom dead center positions and velocity of the free piston.

Inventors:
STURMAN, Oded, Eddie (One Innovation Way, Woodland Park, CO, 80863, US)
Application Number:
US2012/043393
Publication Date:
December 27, 2012
Filing Date:
June 20, 2012
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
STURMAN DIGITAL SYSTEMS, LLC (One Innovation Way, Woodland Park, CO, 80863, US)
STURMAN, Oded, Eddie (One Innovation Way, Woodland Park, CO, 80863, US)
International Classes:
F02B71/00
Domestic Patent References:
WO2008014399A22008-01-31
Foreign References:
US20110083643A12011-04-14
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
VINCENT, Lester, J. et al. (Blakely, Sokoloff Taylor & Zafman LLP,1279 Oakmead Parkwa, Sunnyvale CA, 94085-4040, US)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A free piston engine comprising:

a free piston having a first diameter in a cylinder with a combustion chamber on a first side of the free piston and a piston rod having a second diameter fastened to a second side of the free piston and extending to a single second piston having a third diameter smaller than the first diameter, but larger that the second diameter;

the single second piston extending into a hydraulic cylinder, the single second piston having a first hydraulic area defined by the third diameter in a first hydraulic chamber, and a second hydraulic area defined by an area between the third diameter and the second diameter in a second hydraulic chamber;

a high pressure accumulator with a first pressure;

a low pressure accumulator with a second pressure that is less than the first pressure; and

a reservoir having a third pressure that is less than the first and second pressures;

first valving for controllably coupling the first hydraulic chamber to any one of the reservoir, the low pressure accumulator and the high pressure accumulator;

second valving for controllably coupling the second hydraulic chamber to any one of the reservoir, the low pressure accumulator and the high pressure accumulator.

2. The free piston engine of claim 1 wherein the first valving comprises two, three-way valves.

3. The free piston engine of claim 1 wherein the first and second valving each comprise two, three-way valves.

4. The free piston engine of claim 1 wherein the second valving comprises two, three-way valves.

5. The free piston engine of claim 1 further

comprising a position sensor for sensing the position of the free piston.

6. The free piston engine of claim 1 wherein the combustion chamber includes at least one intake valve, at least one exhaust valve, and a fuel injector.

7. The free piston engine of claim 6 wherein the intake valve, the exhaust valve and the fuel injector are all electronically controlled.

8. The free piston engine of claim 6 wherein the intake valve, the exhaust valve and the fuel injector are all hydraulically actuated.

9. The free piston engine of claim 6 wherein the intake valve, the exhaust valve and the fuel injector are all operated to achieve compression ignition at or near a piston top dead center position.

10. The free piston engine of claim 5 further

comprising a control system for controlling motion of the free piston through control of the valving, including

position and velocity profiles of the free piston responsive to an output of the position sensor.

11. The free piston engine of claim 10 wherein the control system controls the valving to control end positions of the free piston, and a deviation of the velocity of the free piston from the velocity profile.

12. The free piston engine of claim 11 wherein the control system controls the valving so that the first and second hydraulic chambers can exhaust a hydraulic fluid to the reservoir, but cannot attempt to withdraw hydraulic fluid from the reservoir.

13. The free piston engine of claim 1 further

comprising a hydraulic motor coupled to the high pressure accumulator, the low pressure accumulator and the reservoir to provide a shaft power output.

14. The free piston engine of claim 13 wherein the hydraulic motor comprises a one or more hydraulic motor pistons coupled to a crankshaft.

15. The free piston engine of claim 14 wherein the hydraulic motor further comprises third valving coupled between the high pressure accumulator, the low pressure accumulator and the reservoir for controlling a hydraulic pressure on one side of the hydraulic motor pistons to control an output of the hydraulic motor.

16. A method of operating a free piston engine having a free piston of a first diameter for motion within a free piston cylinder and having a combustion chamber on a first side of the free piston comprising:

coupling a piston rod having a second diameter fastened to a second side of the free piston and extending to a single second piston having a third diameter smaller than the first diameter, but larger that the second diameter; the single second piston extending into a hydraulic cylinder, the second piston having a first hydraulic area defined by the third diameter in a first hydraulic chamber, and a second hydraulic area defined by the area between the third diameter and the second diameter in a second hydraulic chamber;

providing a high pressure accumulator, a low pressure accumulator and a reservoir each having a pressure, wherein the pressure of the reservoir is less than the pressure of the low pressure accumulator, which is less than the pressure of the high pressure accumulator;

providing first valving for controllably coupling the first hydraulic chamber to any one of the reservoir, the low pressure accumulator and the high pressure accumulator;

providing second valving for controllably coupling the second hydraulic chamber to any one of the reservoir, the low pressure accumulator and the high pressure accumulator, and controlling the first and second valving to control a top dead center position and a bottom dead center position of the free piston, and to control a velocity profile of the free piston during a motion between the top dead center and the bottom dead center positions of the free piston.

17. The method of claim 16 wherein controlling the first and second valving to control the top dead center and bottom dead center positions of the free piston, and to control the velocity profile of the free piston during the motion between the top dead center and bottom dead center positions comprises modulating the control of the valving to control the top dead center and bottom dead center positions of the free piston, and to limit the excursion of the

velocity profile of the free piston from an intended velocity profile .

18. The method of claim 16 wherein the valving is controlled so that the first and second hydraulic chambers can exhaust a hydraulic fluid to the reservoir, but cannot attempt to withdraw hydraulic fluid from the reservoir.

Description:
FREE PISTON ENGINES WITH

SINGLE HYDRAULIC PISTON ACTUATOR AND METHODS

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/499,049 filed June 20, 2011.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to the field of free piston engines.

2. Prior Art

Various types of free piston engines are well known in the prior art. Of particular relevance to the present invention are the free piston engines and methods disclosed in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2011/0083643, the disclosure of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

Those engines utilize a high pressure hydraulic rail and a low pressure hydraulic rail and a plurality of hydraulic pistons and valving to controllably couple the hydraulic pistons to the high pressure hydraulic rail or the low pressure hydraulic rail. In each cylinder a central

hydraulic piston is connected to the free piston and

configured so as to draw the free piston away from the top dead center position, such as during an intake stroke, or to exert a force on the free piston toward the top dead center position, such as during a compression stroke or a power stroke during which hydraulic energy is delivered to the high pressure rail. The additional hydraulic pistons are

symmetrically distributed around the center hydraulic piston and may be controllably coupled to the high pressure rail or the low pressure rail as appropriate for a compression stroke, and the output of hydraulic energy to the high pressure rail during a power stroke as appropriate to control the free piston velocities, excursion, etc.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Figure 1 illustrates an embodiment of the present invention .

Figure 2 better illustrates the exemplary valving for the embodiment of Figure 1.

Figure 3 presents an exemplary control system for the free piston engine and methods of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In any free piston engine the task is to control the free piston motion during each stroke of its operating cycle and to recover the energy output of the free piston in an efficient manner. Of particular importance are the top dead center and bottom dead center positions of the piston and its velocity profile therebetween. In the free piston engines described in the U.S. published application hereinbefore referred to, the position of the free piston is sensed and from that information the top dead center and the bottom dead center positions of the piston may be controlled, as well as the velocity profile of the free piston, throughout all strokes of the operating cycle. This is done by coupling the hydraulic pistons to the high pressure rail or the low pressure rail in combinations to provide the desired force on the free piston for that particular stroke. By way of example, for a power stroke all hydraulic pistons might initially be coupled to the high pressure rail to deliver high pressure hydraulic fluid thereto, with hydraulic pistons being switched to the low pressure rail as the combustion chamber pressure drops and the free piston slows.

In an exemplary embodiment a central hydraulic piston and six additional hydraulic pistons distributed

symmetrically around the center hydraulic piston are used. For a relative force of seven on the free piston toward the top dead center position all seven hydraulic cylinders would be coupled to the high pressure rail, for a relative force of six all except the center piston would be coupled to the high pressure rail, for a relative force of five the center piston and four of the surrounding symmetrically located pistons would be coupled to the high pressure rail, etc. Note that if one uses all combinations during a power stroke, each hydraulic piston will be switched between the high pressure and low pressure rails a number of times during that power stroke. While this may not be necessary, it does illustrate the point that one (or a pair) of hydraulic cylinders may need to be switched between the high and low rails (or accumulators) more than once during any one stroke of the free piston.

In accordance with the present invention, the ability to operate the valves in a time period which is much shorter than an individual stroke of the free piston makes feasible the modulation of the valving between coupling to the high pressure rail or accumulator and the low pressure rail or accumulator, and to the vent (reservoir) . As shown in Figure 1, for each piston of the free piston engine, the free piston 20 has a center piston rod 22 coupled to a hydraulic piston 24 in a hydraulic cylinder 26. As in the published

application, the injector INJ and the intake and exhaust valves INT and EXH would all be electronically controlled, hydraulically actuated as described in the published

application .

The region below the hydraulic piston 24 is coupled to first and second three-way valves 28 and 30 and the region above hydraulic piston 24 is coupled to three-way hydraulic valves 32 and 34. Figure 2 is an expanded illustration of the three-way valves 28, 30, 32 and 34 and their

interconnection. In particular, the region in cylinder 26 below piston 24 ("lower pressure" in Figure 2) may be coupled to the reservoir RESV or to the three-way valve 30 by three- way valve 28, which in turn may direct the fluid flow to or from the high pressure accumulator ACCU HIGH or to or from the low pressure accumulator ACCU LOW. Similarly, the region in cylinder 26 above hydraulic piston 24 ("upper pressure" in Figure 2) may be coupled to the reservoir RESV or to three- way valve 34 by three-way valve 32, with three-way valve 34 coupling the flow from three-way valve 32 to or from the high pressure accumulator ACCU HIGH or the low pressure

accumulator ACCU LOW. Note that the same valving is repeated for each free piston, though it is only shown for one free piston in Figure 1 for clarity.

For relative values, the reservoir RESV may be, by way of example, open to the atmosphere, i.e., at atmospheric pressure, whereas the pressure in the accumulator ACCU LOW preferably will be significantly above atmospheric pressure, and most preferably at least high enough to backfill the hydraulic volumes on either side of the hydraulic piston 24 when the same is moving in a direction to require such backfilling. The pressure of the high pressure rail or accumulator ACCU HIGH will be quite high in comparison to the low pressure accumulator ACCU LOW, and may be, by way of example, on the order of a thousand bar.

It will be noted that the hydraulic area above hydraulic piston 24 is equal to the area of hydraulic piston 24 minus the cross-sectional area of the free piston rod 22. Thus the same pressure in the hydraulic region above hydraulic piston 24 will cause a substantially lower downward force on the free piston 20 than the upward force the same hydraulic pressure in hydraulic cylinder 26 below hydraulic piston 24 will cause. However less downward force will generally be needed to be exerted on the free piston 20, as this is required generally only for an intake stroke, whereas the upward force required must be adequate for the compression stroke and of course adequate to absorb the hydraulic energy during the combustion or power stroke.

Typically the three-way valves 28, 30, 32 and 34 will be two-stage valves, the first stage being electronically controllable, with the second stage being hydraulically actuated by the first stage, though valves of other

configurations may also be used, provided they have a

sufficient operating speed.

In operation, when one side of the hydraulic piston 24 is not to be pressurized the corresponding three-way valve 28 or 32 will couple the same to the reservoir RESV. For the side of the hydraulic piston 24 to be pressurized, the three- way valve 28 or 32 will couple the corresponding hydraulic region to one of three-way valves 30 and 34, which will alternate between coupling flow to the high pressure

accumulator ACCU HIGH and the low pressure accumulator ACCU LOW at a high speed and with varying timing so that the average force on the hydraulic piston 24 during the

corresponding time interval approximates the desired force. For this purpose, it is particularly important that the three-way valves 30 and 34 are carefully designed to avoid a momentary hydraulic lock when switching between their two valve positions, yet at the same time avoid any substantial direct coupling between the high pressure accumulator and the low pressure accumulator. The hydraulic lock or a near hydraulic lock consideration is also important for the three- way valves 28 and 32, though those valves would normally switch at or around the top dead center and bottom dead center positions of the free piston where velocities and flow rates are not substantial, though the short circuit

possibilities between either accumulator or either

accumulator and the vent is still a particular concern.

Referring again to Figure 1, an exemplary hydraulic pump motor which may be used with the free piston engine of Figure 1 may be seen. As shown therein the exemplary hydraulic pump motor is a piston/crankshaft type pump motor with three control valves 36, 38 and 40 for each piston to controllably couple the same to the high pressure accumulator ACCU HIGH, the low pressure accumulator ACCU LOW or the reservoir RESV. Typically for shaft power output, the valves would be

controlled so that a cylinder of the pump motor would be coupled to the high pressure accumulator ACCU HIGH during a power stroke, or otherwise to the low pressure accumulator ACCU LOW or to the reservoir RESV. For no power output with the pump motor crankshaft turning, such as by being coupled to the wheels of a vehicle that is moving, a cylinder of the pump motor would be coupled to the low pressure accumulator ACCU LOW during both strokes to keep the cylinder filled with hydraulic fluid but to not deliver any power to the wheels. For recovery of energy, such as during regenerative engine braking, one or more cylinders of the pump motor would be coupled to the low pressure accumulator ACCU LOW during what would normally be the power stroke to keep the cylinder filled with hydraulic fluid, and to the high pressure

accumulator ACCU HIGH during a return stroke to return much more hydraulic energy to the high pressure accumulator than provided from the low pressure accumulator during the power stroke .

For piston position sensing, a magnetic steel plunger 40 is used together with a coil 42 which is excited with a relatively high frequency AC signal. The impedance of the coil will vary with the position of the magnetic plunger 40. While the variation in impedance with plunger position as measured may not be linear and/or the circuitry for sensing the impedance may not be linear, a calibration curve may readily be applied to linearize the output signal with piston position .

Now referring to Figure 3, an exemplary control system for a multi-cylinder free piston engine incorporating the present invention may be seen. This control system uses a cylinder controller for each cylinder of the free piston engine, with the cylinder controllers being controlled in turn by a master controller. In that regard, note that in a free piston engine of the type being described, any given cylinder may go from an off state wherein the piston 20 is at a fixed position to a full power state wherein the free piston engine cylinder is operating at maximum power within one or two strokes of the piston 20. Further, there

typically will be a most efficient operating condition for a piston in a free piston engine which may be expressed

primarily in terms of piston position and velocity profiles. Accordingly by way of example, under light load conditions one or more cylinders may be entirely turned off, or

alternatively, all cylinders operated though with a pause between operating cycles, such as a pause at the bottom dead center piston position after an intake stroke before later resuming operation. Ignition could be sensed by a pressure sensor extending into the combustion chamber, though ignition may be more easily sensed by sensing pressure or pressure changes in the hydraulic fluid in the region below the hydraulic piston 24, and cycle to cycle adjustments made to maintain ignition at the desired piston position. Note that in a free piston engine, the free piston may continue a compression stroke until ignition occurs, so that as long as fuel is available, the cycle to cycle adjustments are in effect controlling the piston position when ignition occurs, effectively controlling what is being called the top dead center free piston position.

The free piston engine may be configured and operated as a conventional four stroke compression ignition engine, a two stroke compression ignition engine or in accordance with other operating cycles, as desired. Compression ignition at or near a piston top dead center position may be assured cycle to cycle adjustment in the operation of the intake and exhaust valves INT and EXH . In a free piston engine, a compression stroke may be continued, provided fuel is

available, until ignition occurs, so the cycle to cycle adjustment is essentially controlling the top dead center free piston position at which compression ignition occurs. Ignition may be sensed by putting a pressure sensor in each free piston combustion chamber, though a simpler and less expensive way of sensing ignition is to sense the rapid rise in pressure in the hydraulic fluid under hydraulic piston 24.

As shown in Figure 3, in the exemplary control system a cylinder power command is provided to each cylinder

controller by way of a cylinder power command signal. The cylinder controller generally monitors the position and thus the velocity of piston 2 0 and controls valves 2 8 , 30 , 32 and 34 , as well as the fuel injector INJ, the intake valves INT and the exhaust valves EXH to operate that cylinder in accordance with the commanded cylinder power. The cylinder controller would know the proper piston position and velocity profiles to operate that cylinder in the most efficient way to provide the commanded power, which may include imposing pauses between operating cycles as required and as

hereinbefore described. However these operating conditions might also be variable, typically through the master

controller, to take into consideration engine temperature, air temperature, etc.

Also as shown in Figure 3 , the master controller itself in this exemplary embodiment is responsive to a power setting which may be, by way of example, an accelerator position in a vehicle. In that regard, the phrase power setting is used in a broad sense and might be responsive to a speed or a change of speed of the device driven by the hydraulic output of the free piston engine, such as when driving an AC electric generator having a variable load thereon. The master

controller can control additional cylinder controllers in a multi-cylinder engine and can stop pistons 2 0 in a number of cylinders to obtain the most efficient operation of the remaining operating cylinders based on the load requirements at the time. Of course the control system of Figure 3 is merely an example, and a suitable control system can be realized in many different configurations.

As pointed out before, the ability to operate the valves ( 2 8 , 30 , 32 and 34 in the exemplary embodiment) in a time period which is much shorter than an individual stroke of the free piston makes feasible the modulation of the valving between coupling to the high pressure rail or accumulator and the low pressure rail or accumulator, and to the vent

(reservoir) when the hydraulic fluid is being discharged to the vent. Preferably each piston will follow predetermined position and velocity profiles, either fixed for all

operation of the engine or dependent on the specific engine operating conditions. The position profiles particularly define the top dead center and bottom dead center piston positions, with the velocity profiles particularly defining the preferred piston velocities between these two end

positions .

In theory, one could modulate the operation of the valves at a high frequency to accurately hold the piston velocities to the desired velocity profile. However there are some losses associated with the actuation of the valves that limits the number of actuations that are practical per piston stroke. Aside from the energy required to operate the valves, it is particularly important that hydraulic fluid flow never be blocked when the respective free piston is moving. This means for instance that when switching between the high pressure accumulator and the low pressure accumulator, one must allow momentary coupling together of the high and low pressure accumulators. It is for this reason that it is preferred to use 3-way valves for valves 28, 30, 32 and 34 rather than two, 2-way valves for each, as a 3-way valve can be designed to have a momentary coupling that is adequate but not excessive, and is not subject to problems of the possible difference in speed of operation of two 2-way valves.

Consequently to avoid excessive losses due to valve

actuation, the control system should allow significant deviation from the intended or ideal velocity profile to limit the amount of valve actuation losses commensurate with the added losses that large excursions from the intended velocity profile will cause. In that regard, an ideal velocity profile can be easily experimentally established, and in fact different profiles might be used dependent on whether maximum efficiency or maximum power is desired.

Thus the present invention has a number of aspects, which aspects may be practiced alone or in various

combinations or sub-combinations, as desired. While a preferred embodiment of the present invention has been disclosed and described herein for purposes of illustration and not for purposes of limitation, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.