By Syed Sujeel Ahmed Software Engineer - India Image as the world faces fuel shortages and ever increasing prices of fossil fuels, one may find himself thinking how convenient it would be if vehicles could just run on water or air instead of fuel. Now, a team of four final year students from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Muffakham Jah (MJ) College of Engineering and Technology in Hyderabad, India is trying hard to make our dreams become a reality. The team has come up with a design for a 4-stroke compressed air engine (CAE) which replaces the conventional internal combustion engine (ICE). No More Fuel The engine does not require conventional or fossil fuels such as petrol, diesel, compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas or even hydrogen, but runs soley on compressed air. Unlike the conventional ICE, no internal combustion occurs in the compressed air engine. Dr. Masood Tayyab, a lecturer at MJ college and the team's supervisor, had this to say to IslamOnline.net (IOL): "At a time when the world is facing a grave energy and fuel crises and the problem is compounded by the resulting pollution, any technology that brings a solution to this quandary would also bring a sigh of great relief for mankind." He believes that he has found "a solution that not only promises to solve the problem of fuel shortage, but also curb the resulting pollution." Mohammad Feroz, one of the students and leader of the development team, said that Tayyab had shown the team the block diagram of the engine and wanted them to construct it from scratch. "But we modified the idea a bit to ease the workload and instead of constructing all the parts we used some parts of an existing bike's old internal combustion engine and successfully developed the compressed air engine," explained Feroz to IOL. Feroz's father runs a two wheeler repair shop, which came in handy for Feroz and enabled him to experiment and assemble different parts of the engine. He also used this available resource as well as the assistance of his father during his time off from college. Interestingly, this engine runs solely on compressed air and not on a mixture of air and fuel. In traditional engines, air as well as a fuel such as petrol, diesel or compressed natural gas are used for combustion and for operation of the engine. According to Tayyab, the utilization of compressed air in pneumatic applications is nothing new. Compressed air is used in air motors, pneumatic actuators (devices that transform an input signal into motion), as well as various other pneumatic equipments. It has also been used in some vehicles for boosting the initial torque (initial twisting force required to set an engine in motion.) Tayyab explained that his team's engine works like a diesel engine. The engine starts working when the electrical signal is switched on and the pressure regulating valve is opened. The engine is then given an initial torque to set it in motion and high pressure air is injected into the cylinder. As the air enters, it expands and the engine speeds up in motion. The amount of air flowing into the cylinder is measured by an air flow meter. Multiple Advantages The compressed air engine promises to bring multiple advantages. Besides the fact that the engine doesn't require any fuel, compressed air is far cheaper than any fuels that are used for running vehicles. Compressed air is nothing more than regular air, compressed at a high pressure. When the compressed air expands, it cools down to a very low temperature, cooling its surroundings. Hence, the engine doesn't emit smoke but instead it emits cool air which doesn't cause any pollution of the environment. Moreover, the expanded cool air comes as a bonus and can be used as a cooling system in cars, thus eliminating the need for an air conditioner, another polluting and costly system. In IC engines, a cooling system is required to control the engine's temperature, whereas in CA engines there is no such requirement. Tayyab says there are at least two similar ongoing projects, one by Media Development International in France and another being carried out in South Korea where they are developing a new type of car that would run on compressed air. Barring a few snags, the project is otherwise viable for the automobile industry. The only concern Tayyab has is the size of the air cylinder which is usually large as well as heavy. He believes the engine can be well-utilized in four wheelers by slight modifications to the structure as they have adequate space to accommodate the engine. But Feroz believes that his version of the engine can be used in two wheelers as well, as it can be fitted below the seat. The students are ready to approach the automobile industry with their prototype and to pitch their product for further development. The other members of the team include Mohammad Gayazuddin, Mohammad Irfan, and Tauseef Ahmed. The team won first prize in Techshownance, a technology expo cum competition held by Osmania University in Hyderabad.