Background And Summary Of The Present Invention

The present invention is a method and apparatus for operating an engine using a compressed gas as the motive fluid. More particularly, the present invention relates to a apparatus for adapting a pre-existing internal combustion engine for operation on a compressed gas.

Air pollution is one of the most serious problems facing the world today. One of the major contributors to air pollution is the ordinary internal combustion engine which is used in most motor vehicles today. Various devices, including many items required by legislation, have been proposed in an attempt to limit the pollutants which an internal combustion engine exhausts to the air. However, most of these devices have met with limited success and are often both prohibitively expensive and complex. A clean alternative to the internal combustion engine is needed to power vehicles and other machinery.

A compressed gas, preferably air, would provide an ideal motive fluid for an engine, since it would eliminate the usual pollutants exhausted from an internal combustion engine. An apparatus for converting an internal combustion engine for operation on compressed air is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,885,387 issued May 27, 1975 to Simington. The Simington patent discloses an apparatus including a source of compressed air and a rotating valve actuator which opens and closes a plurality of mechanical poppet valves. The valves deliver compressed air in timed sequence to the cylinders of an engine through adapters located in the spark plug holes. However, the output speed of an engine of this type is limited by the speed of the mechanical valves and the fact that the length of time over which each of the valves remains open cannot be varied as the speed of the engine increases.

Another apparatus for converting an internal combustion engine for operation on steam or compressed air is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,102,130 issued July 25, 1978 to Stricklin. The Stricklin patent discloses a device which changes the valve timing of a conventional four stroke engine such that the intake and exhaust valves open once for every revolution of the engine instead of once every other revolution of the engine. A reversing valve is provided which delivers live steam or compressed air to the intake valves and is subsequently reversed to allow the exhaust valves to deliver the expanded steam or air to the atmosphere. A reversing valve of this type however does not provide a reliable apparatus for varying the amount of motive fluid injected into the cylinders when it is desired to increase the speed of the engine. Further, a device of the type disclosed in the Stricklin patent requires the use of multiple reversing valves if the cylinders in a multi-cylinder engine were to be fired sequentially.

Therefore, it is an object of the present invention to provide a reliable method and apparatus for operating an engine or converting an engine for operation with a compressed gas.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a method and apparatus which is effective to deliver a constantly increasing amount of compressed gas to an engine as the speed of the engine increases.

A still further object of the present invention is to provide a method and apparatus which will operate an engine using compressed gas at a speed sufficient to drive a conventional automobile at highway speeds.

It is still a further object of the present invention to provide a method and apparatus which is readily adaptable to a standard internal combustion engine, to convert the internal combustion engine for operation with a compressed gas.

Another object of the invention is to provide a method and apparatus which utilises cool expanded gas, exhausted from a compressed gas engine, to operate an air-conditioning unit and/or an oil-cooler.

These and other objects are realised by the method and apparatus of the present invention for operating an engine having at least one cylinder containing a reciprocating piston and using compressed gas as the motive fluid. The apparatus includes a source of compressed gas, a distributor connected it for conveying the compressed gas to the cylinder or cylinders. A valve is provided for admitting the compressed gas to the cylinder when the piston is in an approximately Top Dead Centre position within the cylinder. An exhaust is provided for exhausting the expanded gas from the cylinder as the piston returns to approximately the Top Dead Centre position.

In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a device is provided for varying the duration of each engine cycle over which the valve remains open to admit compressed gas to the cylinder, dependent upon the speed of the engine. In a further preferred embodiment of the present invention, an apparatus for advancing the timing of the opening of the valve is arranged to admit the compressed gas to the cylinder progressively further and further before the Top Dead Centre position of the piston, as the speed of the engine increases.

Further features of the present invention include a valve for controlling the amount of compressed gas admitted to the distributor. Also, a portion of the gas which has been expanded in the cylinder and exhausted through the exhaust valve, is delivered to a compressor to be compressed again and returned to the source of compressed gas. A gear train can be engaged to drive the compressor selectively at different operating speeds, depending upon the pressure maintained at the source of compressed air and/or the speed of the engine. Still further, a second portion of the exhaust gas is used to cool a lubricating fluid for the engine or to operate an air-conditioning unit.

In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the valve for admitting compressed gas to the cylinder is operated electrically. The device for varying the duration of each engine cycle, over which the intake valve remains open, as the speed of the engine increases, comprises a rotating element whose effective length increases as the speed of the engine increases, causing a first contact on the rotating element to be electrically connected to a second contact on the rotating element, for a longer period of each engine cycle. The second contact operates the valve causing it to remain in an open position for a longer period of each engine cycle, as the speed of the engine increases.

Still further features of the present invention include an adaptor plate for supporting the distributor above the intake manifold of a conventional internal combustion engine after a carburettor has been removed to allow air to enter the cylinders of the engine through the intake manifold and conventional intake valves. Another adaptor plate is arranged over an exhaust passageway of the internal combustion engine to reduce the cross-sectional area of the exhaust passageway.

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