LiquidPiston nets U.S. Air Force funding award for power system
By Becky Schultz27 June 2023
LiquidPiston, Inc., a Bloomfield, CT-based engine technology and hybrid power systems provider, announced it has received notification of a Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) award from the AFWERX Directorate of the U.S. Department of Air Force. The award supports the acceleration and development of private sector innovation that can enhance Air Force capabilities to improve and execute its national security mission, the announcement noted.
AFWERX is a Technology Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the innovation arm of the Department of Air Force. Its mission is to accelerate agile and affordable capability transitions by teaming leaders in innovative technology with Airman and Guardian talent.
AFWERX provides a limited number of STRATFI awards annually under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. LiquidPiston was selected for the award to produce a new class of hybrid power solution and a new engine program based on its X-Engine platform and High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle (HEHC) optimized thermodynamic cycle. Under the award program, the company could receive up to $15 million over a four-year period.
The technology startup is developing combustion engines that are scalable (from 1 hp to over 1,000 hp) and up to 80% smaller and lighter than comparable diesel compression engines while delivering power density of up to 1.5 hp/lb. The company’s High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle (HEHC) and engine architecture technology also support next-generation fuel-energy conversion solutions for hybrid power systems, allowing such applications UAS, mobile power generation and APUs to utilize fossil or renewable fuel.
The X-Engines have a simple design, with parts consisting of a rotor (the primary work-producing component) and an eccentric shaft; the only other moving components are ancillary parts such as injectors, fuel pumps and oil pumps. The rotary engines are uniquely configured to adopt the company’s patented thermodynamic cycle, which LiquidPiston said delivers both efficiency and low-noise advantages.
In commenting on the award, Lt. Col. John Tekell, AFWERX Agility Prime Branch Lead, noted, “The Air Force and other DoD agencies constantly require more energy in many applications and in many form factors in order to maintain agile combat power in increasingly distributed, multi-domain operations.” AFWERX plans to work with LiquidPiston and Air Force end users to develop and field ground and airborne power systems based on LiquidPiston’s compact, heavy fuel-capable engine and hybrid power system platforms.
“We’re excited to be partnering with AFWERX to produce a new class of hybrid power solution and a new engine program based on our X-Engine platform and HEHC thermodynamic cycle innovations,” said Alec Shkolnik, founder and CEO of LiquidPiston. “This builds on our ongoing internal R&D and our previously announced DARPA and U.S. Army programs, several of which are currently in development.”
Over the past year, LiquidPiston received a $9 million development contract from the U.S. Army to develop a prototype “core engine” based on its XTS-210 design, as well as a $1.7 million Phase II award from the U.S Army to continue the development of and demonstrate its Hybrid Electric X-Engine UAV propulsion system.