# Plastic combustion engines and why aren't they used

1. Sep 29, 2011

### Vinni

The link is to an article that describes the history of plastic combustion engines! The reason they are not in your automobile is that those who are experts don't like the idea. There are incentives in the U.S. to make cars more fuel efficient by some 5 years from now but the plastic combustal engine was made practical in 1980 or so! Literally making cars far lighter and given that they were practical since 1980, if those that had the power to shift the pardigm did so, we would be 30 years ahead in the development of plastic combustable engines!

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/automobiles/25PLASTIC.html?pagewanted=all

We, the common people of the earth, need to wake up to what is happening. This technology has implications that stretch from common transportation to space travel! Why are we not benefiting from something that has been practical since 1980? Something that at least our government spending in new tech and R&D should have explored.

2. Sep 29, 2011

### zoobyshoe

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

3. Sep 29, 2011

### Vinni

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

My point being is since they are risk adverse and considering companies like GM and Chrysler that have been bailed out because of the inability to adpat and exploit new technology, why has my tax dollars gone to such lost causes as maintaining bad ideas? Shouldn't this plastic technology be pursued rather than bail out these companies? Wouldn't society be better off by funding the development of a proven technology than funding poorly run companies that just don't get it?

4. Sep 29, 2011

### zoobyshoe

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

The plastic engines are only proven in the sense that "proof of concept" has been achieved. They aren't at all vetted in practical terms and that is what makes the car companies skittish. They want someone else to solve all the potential problems.

5. Sep 29, 2011

### Vinni

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

Agreed, but the question still stands why should the U.S. tax payer bailout badly run companies instead of developing a potential technology that can revolutionize an industry?

6. Sep 29, 2011

### wuliheron

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

Are you seriously asking why your tax dollars are being used to support major contributors to political campaigns?

7. Sep 30, 2011

### Vinni

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

By that implication then what good is a democracy when its being controlled and exploited by groups whose objectives aren't about what's good for society? What good is it to vote?
Once politicians are in office there is little to nothing those that voted for them can do about preventing against abusing the system.

8. Sep 30, 2011

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

Vinni don't take this the wrong way but you're taking a very Amerocentric view on this (and other) topic. There are many other countries in the world and many other companies. If this technology was so old yet brilliant why do you think that it hasn't taken off somewhere?

9. Sep 30, 2011

### wuliheron

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

That is democracy. Its a tradition dating back to the first Athenian democracy where every person's vote was for sale. The American people voted for a system that allowed the wealthy, corporations, and special interest groups to influence their political system. At any time the American people can vote to change that system but, instead, they appear to prefer just complaining whenever it costs them money.

And, of course, insisting anyone who doesn't vote shouldn't have the right to complain...

10. Sep 30, 2011

### Vinni

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

For the same reasons that it didn't take off in the U.S. However the technology was developed in the U.S. and tested in high performance environments. The automotive industry in general tends to use gimicky ad campaigns that try to sell a life style or status symbol. So it would appear those companies are just as risk adverse as U.S. companies and stick to tried and tested business models to sell cars.

11. Sep 30, 2011

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
I realise that this is a post in GD but PF rules still apply. Claims must be backed up by evidence. Handwaving legitimate questions or statements away with a vague personal opinion is not good enough.

Why don't you look into what research has taken place worldwide over this technology, what the problems with implementation are and what, if anything, is being done about it rather than posting one article before repeatably stating your opinion.

12. Sep 30, 2011

### Vinni

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

And exactly how would the American people make that change that would prevent the abuses that are infact illegal?

What politicians do is rationalize a legal basis that allows them, through the law, to favor big business. But if they said outright they're going to favor big business it would be against the law!

Socialism doesn't work, capitalist unregulated and regulated economies don't work, what's left? A social cultural attitude adjustment? Something like the renaissance of the middle ages, only favoring small to mid size businesses by implementing ant-trust laws to keep markets open and competitive?

13. Sep 30, 2011

### Staff: Mentor

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

Even in a bailout, the government's ability to dictate terms to the car companies is not absolute. The US is still capitalist.

Also, I love how the article compares composites used in the Dreamliner to a plastic car engine....as if the Dreamliner has plastic jet engines.

14. Sep 30, 2011

### Vinni

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

It does so in a comparison to the stresses of its wings traveling at 600 mph. It doesn't make any innuendo that the Dreamliner is using plastic jet engines. But then again is it possible to make plastic jet engines? After all plastic internal combustion engines were used in high performance race cars.

15. Sep 30, 2011

### AlephZero

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

And they don't mention the fact that the Dreamliner project is 3 years late and goodness knows how much over budget. Sure, Boeing have finally managed to deliver one aircraft to a customer, but it's not at all clear if they can ramp up the production lines to match the size of the order book.

16. Sep 30, 2011

### AlephZero

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

Given the fairly loose definition of "plastic" that seems to be used here, then many parts of jet engines are made of "plastic" already. But car engines don't operate at anywhere near the temperatures and pressures in a jet engine core. Compare a water-cooled car engine using coolant at say 90C, with an air-cooled jet engine using "cooling air" at more like 900C for example.

17. Sep 30, 2011

### xxChrisxx

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

Out of interest what 'plastic' did they use to make these engines?

Last edited: Sep 30, 2011
18. Sep 30, 2011

### wuliheron

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

The state of Maryland outlawed voting for Mickey Mouse when he came close to winning, but there is certainly no law forcing anyone to vote for people taking large campaign contributions from anyone. That's neither socialism or capitalism, just a fact of life.

19. Sep 30, 2011

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

I believe it's called Torlon.

20. Sep 30, 2011

### xxChrisxx

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

They are colossally expensive aren't they? I know PEEK and polyimides are. No wonder they've not been adopted.

21. Sep 30, 2011

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

I believe Russ is referring to this statement: "This raises a logical question: if modern plastics are sturdy enough for 600 mile-per-hour airplanes, why are car engines still made by pouring molten metal into molds, a 6,000-year-old process?" That statement is not a logical question. There is considerable omission, notably the different operating conditions of the plastic composites (as used in the aircraft) vs automobile combustion engines.

Here's an article on the use of composites by Airbus. I haven't verified it though.
http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/sciencetech/airbus-composites-trial-part-one/13300 [Broken]

Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
22. Sep 30, 2011

### Staff: Mentor

I know, but citing the example implies a relevant comparison where none actually exists.

23. Sep 30, 2011

### Vinni

Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

They're about $18 to$26 per pound when sold in volumes of 2000 to 4000 pound orders.

Torlon: Polyamide/imide

http://www.plasticsnews.com/resin-pricing/high-temp-tps.html

For a 50 pound engine capable of +200 hp that's only \$1300, of course that's not including the forming costs but with mass production and higher volumes the cost would come down dramatically. Also they are about half the costs of PEEK!
Well if the guy didn't make one for a race car, that worked I may add, maybe you'd be right.
But as posted before a proof of concept was demonstrated that a combustion engine that was used in a race car was developed and operated in competition!
As noted in the article just using plastic did not work, he lined the combustion chambers with aluminum or iron. The temperature of the explosive gas in a cyclinder is comparable to pressures and temperatures of a Jet engine. Using similar techniques used in the combustion chamber of the plastic engine could be used in the jet engine core.

Last edited by a moderator: Sep 30, 2011
24. Sep 30, 2011

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Re: Its Old Tech, so why isn't being used?

Proof of concept is literally just that. It doesn't get over the realities of how practical it is to pursue, one of the biggest criticisms of this technology is that it is untested (i.e. it doesn't have decades and millions of miles behind it), it would require a paradigm shift in training for the whole industry and the infrastructure of the industry is not built around it. Therefore there is no economic benefit to switch over to it.

Another example to this is the http://www.joeharmondesign.com/", a car made literally from wood. It too has had proof of concept but the industry isn't leaping to adopt it. Why? Because everything works the way it is now and retooling the entire industry would be a massive economic undertaking for minimal gain which ultimately would end up costing the consumer more. New technologies are taken on slowly and incrementally once they have past a series of tests and have a very good track record plus good evidence for a route to market, not when they have proof of principle.

EDIT: Vinni please learn to use the "multi quote" button when responding to multiple posters. Simple click the button for every poster you want to reply to and then click the normal "quote" button for the last as well.

Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
25. Sep 30, 2011

### Studiot

Good evening Vinni,

Do you have any more references to back your ideas or or are they solely based on one ill informed NYtimes article?

For your information plastic and other non metallic engine main components have been attempted several times in Europe, particularly in rotary engines.

As I understand the main problem, which has yet to be overcome, is that these materials have not yet been developed to be as dimensionally stable as metal, particularly over time.
This is a particularly serious drawback for engines, which could not tolerate the dimensional changes suffered by for instance glass fibre reinforced plastics body shells. For body parts the problem has been partly overcome and more and more parts are now of plastic.

go well