IRIS engine
The IRIS Engine is a design for a new type of internal combustion engine
Internal combustion engine
The internal combustion engine is an engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer in a combustion chamber. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high -pressure gases produced by combustion apply direct force to some component of the engine...

. Its inventors say that engines constructed using this design can be smaller, lighter and significantly more efficient than traditional engines of comparable horsepower
Horsepower is the name of several units of measurement of power. The most common definitions equal between 735.5 and 750 watts.Horsepower was originally defined to compare the output of steam engines with the power of draft horses in continuous operation. The unit was widely adopted to measure the...

 and displacement
Engine displacement
Engine displacement is the volume swept by all the pistons inside the cylinders of an internal combustion engine in a single movement from top dead centre to bottom dead centre . It is commonly specified in cubic centimeters , litres , or cubic inches...

. The design replaces the piston and cylinder architecture of conventional engines with a purportedly novel mechanism called the Internally Radiating Impulse Structure, or IRIS.

In January 2008, the IRIS Engine design won first prize for transportation technology in NASA's annual "Create the Future" design competition. In October 2008, the Radial Expansion Engine (RXE), a variant of the IRIS design, won a major award in the ConocoPhillips Energy Prize competition.

Geometry of the IRIS

In an IRIS combustion chamber
Combustion chamber
A combustion chamber is the part of an engine in which fuel is burned.-Internal combustion engine:The hot gases produced by the combustion occupy a far greater volume than the original fuel, thus creating an increase in pressure within the limited volume of the chamber...

, a number of inverted segments of a circle, or "chordons," interact to create a continuously sealed chamber of variable volume. Instead of elongating during combustion, as a traditional engine does, the IRIS engine's chamber expands in diameter. The inventors claim that this innovation will reduce waste heat and will increase the amount of surface area the engine has available to produce torque
Torque, moment or moment of force , is the tendency of a force to rotate an object about an axis, fulcrum, or pivot. Just as a force is a push or a pull, a torque can be thought of as a twist....


Design variations

IRIS engines are designed to run on traditional fuels, but could also be adapted to use biodiesel
Biodiesel refers to a vegetable oil- or animal fat-based diesel fuel consisting of long-chain alkyl esters. Biodiesel is typically made by chemically reacting lipids with an alcohol....

, natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

, or hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

. IRIS chamber technology could also be utilized to create pumps, compressors and medical devices.


The IRIS was conceived of by Timber Dick, a Denver, Colorado inventor and businessman. Three of his sons, Corban, Levi, and Tomicah Tillemann-Dick, also contributed to the design and are credited on patent applications relating to the IRIS engine. The design recently won the $20,000 Dow Sustainability Award. A closely related design by the same team of inventors, the Radial Expansion Engine, was awarded a $75,000 prize in the ConocoPhillips Energy Prize Competition.

External links

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