God, Hope & Helping Others
The internal combustion engine has seen little innovation since Felix Wankel’s contentious rotary effort back in the 1950s. That is not for want of trying. According to Google’s patent library, which indexes data from the European Patent Office, the World Intellectual Property Organization and patent agencies in China, Germany, Canada, there are as many as 10m piston and compressor-related patents on record.
After more than half a century of stagnation, however, the engine is getting a makeover. Entrepreneur and technologist Steve Lindsey has spent the past 10 years testing a new invention that aims to make engines up to 20pc more efficient. “Most industries try to optimise for a 1pc to 2pc increase in efficiency – 20pc is unheard of,” he says.
His Blade Compressor replaces the old “up and down” piston technology with a circular widget that compresses the air – or gas – in front and induces the air behind in continuous motion, minimising wastage. The technology can be applied to any kind of engine, from the compressor in your fridge to a car engine, potentially revolutionising everything from coffee machines to battleships.
“Every compressor out there gets something wrong,” says Mr Lindsey. “Either the air is wasted, or it’s not compressed properly. But the beauty of this design is that it is so simple. There’s no magic in terms of material. If the Victorians had thought of it, they could have made it.”
To commercialise the technology, Mr Lindsey created Lontra, an intellectual property (IP) company based in Napton, near Coventry. The Midlands location was key. “This is where the UK’s high- tech engineering skills are,” he says. “Lots of ex-Cosworth, [Mahle] Powertrain and Formula One engineers are based in the area.”