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Popular 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!]



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 12 Comments
      • 9 Years Ago
      Sir Harry Ricardo activated the lazy flame front with the help of turbulence almost 85 years ago by sandwiching the compressing end gasses towards the igniter. The two-way benefits realized out of this design were positive charge displacements into a much-desired compact combustion chamber. The shadowed areas coming very close to each other at the end of the stroke came to be known as the quench areas as they greatly prevented secondary explosions that led to engine knock. Squishing or call it quenching allowed the usage of higher compression ratios, which were primarily possible due to the much-needed turbulence during the process of in-cylinder combustion. Higher compression ratios are the only means to improve thermal efficiencies out of IC Engines. The other limiting factors being the anti-knock capabilities of the fuels in use. The single other inherent feature coming into play in most ICE’s at TDC are - The piston coming to a momentary halt at the end of the compression stroke before reversing, forming a straight line between the gudgeon pin and the connecting rod in relation to the big-end pin supported by the crankshaft main bearing axis before starting the power stroke. At this critical stage the gasses are compressed to the very maximum and confined to the combustion chamber while the ignition process has already been activated. The ignition delay period needs to successfully commence the combustion process that causes rapid expansion in the burning gases to eventually whack the piston down the tube. At this critical phase there lies a thin red line separating combustion from explosion in any ICE. It is at this critical moment that my simple modifications to the age old “ squish bands “ overcomes the ignition delay period and accelerates the combustion process while the big-end bearing rolls over to start an efficient power stroke in a fast expanding cylinder. Grooved turbulence in the form of vortexes through the quench areas achieve a much better mix and spread between the largest constituent known as Nitrogen along with the volatile hydrocarbons that need to meet up with the vital oxygen atoms to start-up a fast chain of chemical reactions once ignited in an running ICE. This form of thermal reactions between the air and fuel leads to greater expansions in the hot burning gases preventing any secondary explosions during the process of in-cylinder combustion. This form of combustion can be compared to breaking the sound barrier with out breaking up the plane or the pilot flying it. Only when you experience this form of combustion taking place in silence will you realize the difference grooves can make to existing ICE’s. You need to step on the gas from low revs in top gear to build up speeds without hearing the familiar bells ringing in the form of pinging indicating - The lazy flame front has woken up at last ! I can’t find a better explanation – If you find some thing different let the world know of it. sing !!!
      • 9 Years Ago
      I read about this guy in Wired magazine awhile ago. It sounded cool, but stating the obvious... why don't the auto manufacturers do this?
      • 9 Years Ago
      I have had the pleasure of conversing with Somender Singh for nearly a year via email. He is very easy to communicate with and extremely knowledgeable on the subject of combustion efficiency. With his guidance I have been modifying engines to his specifications. All of his clams can be realized with little effort for those who are willing to try. I have been very surprised the number of people who are not, perhaps people believe it's too good to be true. Quote by Donovan: "I'd like to find out how this would do in a real dyno test" For those who need dyno test information test are being performed. I'm not sure how useful this information will be, I am hopeful that it will prove benifintial. The improvements are easily observed with out a dyno. Reduced fuel consumption, clean oil and improved idle along with a much improved driving experience are available to anyone willing to give it a try. Quote by jm" "Trust me, if all he is proposing is a different cylinder head shape it doesn't have much worth" It appears that many people are willing to disregard the worth with out giving it much thought. Do you have any experience disproving Singh's claims? I have been modifying engines for more than 30 years and I have never before seen anything like this. I'm not alone in enjoying the benefits, I have modified six SBC engines for different people all very satisfied, working on three more and helping several people in other states with their projects. The numbers are quickly growing.
      • 9 Years Ago
      It's time some one tested out Mr.Singh's simple invention to see if it saves gas ? Costs of motoring after the recent price hikes in fuel have knocked the ' Smile ' out of most motorists. Most are realizing their Cars and SUV's don't really live up to the claimed mpg in city / traffic either. The only option available to the world are the intelligent usage of gasoline while guys driving diesels have several advantages. What future do motorists have any way ? Options : Live with what we have OR - Look for alternatives OR - Think of bettering our engines ? If you think the Automobile Majors will recall all the Cars & SUV's back for a quick tune up to better fuel consumptions..? You must be either dreaming or living in cloud 9 ' This would not be possible even if heaven decides to do so' ? Most Auto Majors are reeling under Q3 losses and have no time for new ideas. It will be great to see Oil companies sponsor and test out new ideas as they have the facilities to test fuel samples on a daily basis on a variety of engines. After all that has been written about Mr.Singh, may be his design burns fuel better ? We may see a two way advantage ?: 1) The average motorists getting more miles out of a gallon of fuel. ( Just everybody's dream ) 2) A lot lesser green house gases going up as smoke bringing down global warming. ( Just about everybody's dream ) Remember - Time and Oil are both running out guys, we need to hurry. Don't expect our Governments to wake up as they have other issues which seem to top their lists. We need to try every possible avenue to get out of this mess the Automobile Industry has brought us into, in the name of Innovation. We are not seeing many solutions or alternatives emerging in these moments of crisis to get us back onto the road. It is real testing times ? thomas iype
      • 9 Years Ago
      I AM OUTRAGED! Record profits for the Oil and Gas Co's Who named a tanker the "Condoleeza Rice" ?! Really! The articles I have read and the website provided for Mr. Singh say nothing about the assertion that Mr. Charles Graeber makes, indicating that Mr. Somender Singh would not allow Dyno testing. In fact, he is literally crying out for someone to do the test. He gives instructions on the site for anyone to take advantage of the design principle. So far quite a few have without a SINGLE negative comment. Lawnmower, Snowmobile, Pickup Truck, Race Cars, Race Truck and an 89 Celica.. plus more even. Mr. Randy Naquin has clearly got the lead on all of you here in the US, but the time is coming when you can go to Midas Mufflers and get your 'Groove' on. Enough with this "It Might Work". No one had any idea this was possible until Mr. Somender Singh brought it to light and the world is waiting for solutions. Who is going to pony up and do a side by side comparison in real world traffic. When was the last time you drove a Dyno around town? Send some emails to Car and Driver fer crissakes!! This is the story of the century in terms of regular automobile engine improvements. Get on the horn and make this happen. Please. -Old Fart
      • 9 Years Ago
      Most of my work is done with aftermarket heads because of improved volumetric efficiency and modern chamber design. I have modified 4 sets of aftermarket heads for race cars. Again all the claims were realized. The benefits are multiplied with race engines because with increased camshaft overlap, reversion into the intake track becomes a problem at low RPM. With the grooved cylinder heads this is no longer a problem because little unburned fuel is present during overlap. http://members.cox.net/rodisrocks/topline1.jpg http://members.cox.net/raunch/Jr%201_edited.jpg http://members.cox.net/raunch/afr14_edited.jpg Somender's design will prove beneficial in all engines using the squish concept. In modern chamber designs as well as "dirty workhorse engines" of the not so distant past. To date I havent modified GM generation III small block. Numerous people have contacted me requesting modifications to this engine because of poor fuel efficiency in Trucks. I will do one soon and report the results.
      • 9 Years Ago
      This was an article from last year i think. I'm surprised you're just now finding it. I'd like to find out how this would do in a real dyno test. I have that particular issue in my house somewhere, i think i bought it because the topic was the future of the auto, that the article about him.
      Charles Graeber
      • 9 Years Ago
      Hi all- Charles Graeber here, the guy who went to India and wrote the story on Singh for PopSci. (I'm a contributing editor with Wired too so I'm not sure that it appeared there- Singh came to my attention through a personal contact who happened to know Singh socially in Mysore). I'm just jumping in because, firstly it's interesting to me that so many have read this story, as I certainly haven't heard much of it, and secondly, to address a few of the above questions. I too would like to see the dyno #'s, and worked hard (without success) to secure them. I suspect, as one writer commented, that Singh has a good cheap improvement which can easily be realized for the majority of dirty workhorse engines which power the planet. He may have something more there too, but it's impossible to determine that without expensive scientific testing which, as far as I know, Singh has neither carried out nor allowed, for fear of proprietary loss. I'm intrested to hear from people in this country who have carried out Singh's mods; what sort of results did you get, and which engines did you mod?
      • 9 Years Ago
      I read about this last year. In general, I think people think that he is a bit of a crank. I saw a show about him on Discovery (or the like) that said he had been trying to "sell" his idea to various Indian manufacturers for quite a while.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Mr. Singh is a great guy to bring this knowledge to the world. Let me tell you a story of how we did the same thing back in the 60s yet we never wanted to tell of it. Slotting we called it. It was only known by a few top race car people and even then did the shop boss make the modification alone or only when around trusted employees, while we called it slotting, others had a different names. We only knew it worked, somehow giving a positive effect on turbulence. We felt still enough knowledge of it was around, we had to kept secrets, no body wanted to add to the competition. Yet many did not know or try or trust it. Everybody did porting and polishing, no secret there, of course everybody milled heads, raising compression, some knew to do a swirl job on the valves and quite a few knew to thin down the butterflies in throttle bodies to near razor thinness. for more speed and economy. Sometimes stocker teams won a few races with slotted heads only to be challenged to do a tear down in order to keep the prize money, Hell we all had race secrets, and we hoped the challenger, who would be the one required to find something to base a challenge on, if he did noticed and suspected that we were out of stock, he would bite his tung, shut up, not bring it to light and let us keep the money. After all we were running stock parts. He then held the secret to himself and would use it on his next builds. Slotting heads has been around in some form long time to racers in the know. Frankly I'm glad Mr. Somender Singh is the somebody who has brought this important fact of engine efficiency into the light. He is the perfect one to do it.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Trust me, if all he is proposing is a different cylinder head shape it doesn't have much worth. Automotive engineers have already tried and tested just about everyshape you can think of and put in alot of thought and expertise into the current shapes they choose. If this shape had the huge benefit he is claiming it would already be in use.
      • 9 Years Ago
      After the introduction of the ' Squish Band ' nothing much has happened inside the combustion chamber beyond Squish area & tolerences between the piston head and the cylinder head at tdc. Every one swears by it. Saying if you got it right, you have victory in sight ! For a change some body has gone past this. This design goes through the squish band and spins the charge into the combustion chamber to promote quick burn. To find out more hit www.somender-singh.com and the rest will appear.
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