Published: Jan. 14, 2010

Faculty conversations: Norbert Mueller

Associate professor of mechanical engineering Norbert Mueller believes his wave disk engine could signal a breakthrough for hybrid electric vehicles. Mueller leads a team of Michigan State University engineers and scientists that recently received a $2.5 million federal stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to build and develop their engine.

The engine uses turbo combustion “shock wave” technology to convert either liquid fuel or compressed natural gas or hydrogen into electrical power. Fuel efficiency for hybrid vehicles could increase five times compared to internal combustion engines while reducing costs by 30 percent.

“Well, it’s lighter than an (internal combustion) engine, it’s smaller and it’s cheaper to produce because it’s all you need to produce,” Mueller said.

“It has no valvetrains, it has no overheads, it has no radiator, and all these things, and no water cycle, it’s pretty easy and simple. You only need to connect a generator on the back, which we call a pot-sized generator and that would be, basically be the engine which drives your full utility vehicle.”

The goal of Mueller’s team is to produce an engine that would give hybrid vehicles a 500-mile driving range and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 95 percent.

“That’s what we want to do, and we are committed to do in the next two years,” Mueller said. “I want to see you in three years, driving this full or hybrid electric vehicle with this engine in there.”