I am not a fan of air compressors. I could be biased though, as my dad has a compressor that is older (and louder) than me, yet it can barely power the few crappy air tools we have. Suffice to say, I get more torque out of my socket wrench than the air wrench.
But compressed air can also be used for propulsion. I’ve seen some designs for air cars, but ultimately all the weight of an enclosed vehicle means a lot of short cuts need to be taken just to get it up to bicycle speed. But what about say, a motorcycle? Two Indian scientists have put forth a design in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy for a compressed air motorcycle. Me thinks they are on to something.
Electric motorcycles have been gaining a lot of ground as of late, but are still hindered by limited range and taking awhile to charge up. Compressed air is readily available and filling a tank full of air won’t take much longer than filling a tank of gas. Bharat Raj Singh, one of the authors of the study, designed a concept air compressor turbine. It can supposedly power a motorcycle for up to 40 minutes on nothing but air.
This could reduce emissions by as much as 50 or 60% in some areas of India, says Singh. Motorcycles and scooters are much more common than cars in India, and air would no doubt be a cheaper fuel too. As one of the rising economies in the world, the path India takes in regards to alternative fuels could have a profound affect on the rest of the world. So far as I know, there isn’t a working concept yet… but I’m hoping to see one soon. The one question I have about any compressed air powered vehicle: is it really that efficient when you considered the energy it takes to compress the air in the first place? The air is just being used as an energy carrier (like a battery, or hydrogen or gasoline), but maybe the amount of energy required to compress the air is almost as much as it puts out?
As an aside, someone has already come up with an air-powered motorcycle; tinkerer Jem Stansfield made his own air powered motorcycle. While it has a top speed of 18 mph, it can go just 7 miles on a tank of compressed air. Not bad for a home invention, but not practical for mass market. You can read more about this air motorcycle over at Treehugger.
Source: Eureka Alert | Image: