renault cylinder swirl 250 pr graphicPopular Science magazine's recent special on "The Future of the Car" featured a fascinating article about Somender Singh, an Indian mechanic/inventor who claims to have unlocked the secret of making crude internal combustion engines (the kind that are common in developing countries) more efficient - using 20 percent less fuel while running cleaner and cooler.

His patented method essentially involves optimizing fuel/air mixing, and therefore combustion, using a high compression head design common on 2-stroke motorcycles, machined with special grooves to guide the mixing of the charge gases inside the cylinder.

Nothing new, really. Engine designers are well aware of the benefits of managing gas movement inside the cylinder. (Renault's simulation of gas circulation inside their new 4-valve diesel, pictured at right, is a case in point.) However, it is possible that Mr. Singh may have a cheap, workable solution for the low-tech engines that much of the world relies on for transportation. The jury's still out.

It's a fascinating story of one man's effort to make a difference under difficult circumstances. Well worth reading, regardless of the success (or failure) of his design.

[thanks, Chris!]