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AutoBlog: GM awarded DOE money to research Shape Memory Alloy heat engines

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Filed under: Hybrid, Government/Legal, GM, Alternative Fuel

sma-concept.jpg

General Motors has been awarded $2.7 million by the Department of Energy to create a working prototype engine using Shape Memory Alloys (SMA). The idea is for the prototype to use SMA tech to capture heat energy from engine exhaust gasses via an electric generator and transfer that energy to recharge batteries for hybrids or electric vehicles.

SMA tech can also theoretically power electronic devices like power seats and windows in a standard gas- or diesel-powered car, perhaps even replacing the power-sapping alternator. The GM press release, which is pasted after the jump, doesn't go into much depth explaining how memory alloys work, but the basic principle is easy to understand.

"When you heat up a stretched SMA wire, it shrinks back to its pre-stretched length, and when it cools back down it becomes less stiff and can revert to the original shape" said Jan Aase, director of GM's Vehicle Development Research Laboratory. "A loop of this wire could be used to drive an electric generator to charge a battery."

While $2.7 million isn't a lot of coin in the realm of GM finances (the General seemed to shed about $2.7 million every ten minutes pre-bankruptcy) the grant was significant in that it was the only monies awarded by the DoE given to an automaker. GM is working with partners from outside the auto industry to make the concept a reality, a practice that the General says is imperative to get breakthroughs like this to market. No timetable was given as to when GM's SMA concept would see the light of day.

[source: GM]

Continue reading GM awarded DOE money to research Shape Memory Alloy heat engines

GM awarded DOE money to research Shape Memory Alloy heat engines originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 02 Nov 2009 08:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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