Coventry University has teamed up with Northampton-based formula one racing giant Cosworth in a race to build the first fundamentally different car engine for a century.
Cosworth, whose high performance engines power Michael Schumacher's Benetton-Ford round the grand prix circuit at more than 200 mph, wants to develop the prototype engine invented by Dan Merritt, a former principal lecturer in thermodynamics and now a researcher at the university's school of engineering.
The secret of the new design - which promises better fuel economy, lower emission levels, and enhanced driveability - is a second small piston in the cylinder, shaped like a valve. It turns at up to 6,000 rpm, which promotes extremely fast combustion. It represents a radical departure from the two combustion systems used in petrol and diesel engines, which have remained fundamentally unchanged since their invention more than 100 years ago.
Drawing on Coventry expertise, Cosworth engineers are now keen to develop a multicylinder version, using the firm's new purpose-built Pounds 3 million emissions and driveability centre.