A team of researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington has come up with a new type of generator that can produce electrical energy up to 25% more efficiently than current technology, and with fewer emissions.
Although efficient power production is certainly a concern in the United States — U.S. electricity consumption was a full 13 times greater in 2013 than it was in 1950 — the team has its sights set on alleviating power shortages in more remote areas of the globe.
“We’re looking for our generators to have the same impact on power that the cell phone had on communications for the 1.3 billion people without access to electricity,” Raheem Bello, an aerospace engineering doctoral candidate in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, said in a April 15 news release put out by the university. “There are many areas of the world that can’t afford the electricity we take for granted in this country.”
Bello is the CEO of a company called Afthon (formerly Detonation Dynamics), co-founded with others from UTA. Afthon is derived from the Greek “afthonia,” meaning abundance, and holds the patent on the new generator.
The process used by the Afthon team’s lab prototype is called “pressure gain combustion” or detonation, and would be able to replace conventional combustion engines in power plants as well as in cars, ships, trains, airplanes or rockets. It’s more efficient because it captures energy that is usually wasted as heat in the body of most engines.
The design is also appealing because it can be used with a variety of fuel sources, including natural gas, propane, diesel and kerosene.
Afthon has already been awarded a $25,000 grant from VentureWell, and is heading to six competitions this spring to seek further funding while it refines its design and builds a field prototype.
Frank Lu, who is a professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department and director of UTA’s Aerodynamics Research Center as well as serving as Afthon’s chief technical officer, says he’s excited regardless of the outcome of the upcoming competitions. “This kind of innovation shows what our students are capable of,” he said in the release. “This new energy technology can be a game-changer globally.”