Family man and inventor Timber Dick, who's at the center of a July 10 Westword article, was obsessed with cars -- specifically how to make them more efficient. Several years ago, he and his son Corban began studying one of the least efficient parts of an automobile: the internal combustion engine, whose piston-and-cylinder structure has existed relatively unchanged since the 17th century and harnesses only 25 percent of its fuel’s usable power.
The problem, the two decided, was that most of the energy from the engine’s combustions dissipates uselessly into its cylinders’ walls as heat and isn’t used to power the pistons up and down. So they came up with the Internally Radiating Impulse Structure, a new type of engine where the combustion chambers don’t have pistons and cylinders but instead feature walls that expand outward like a camera iris. That way, the energy that was formerly lost as heat is used to move the chamber walls, and this movement powers the engine. Unlike an old-fashioned internal combustion engine, an IRIS engine may harness roughly 70 percent of its fuel’s power.
Family members hope to build an IRIS prototype soon. Look below for an animation of the engine's combustion cycle:
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.