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Energy and environment
 
Orbital engine technology
1995
technology for efficient clean-burning engines

Ralph Sarich of Perth first won fame when he was named Inventor of the Year on ABC TV's ?The Inventors? program in 1972. His invention was an orbital engine that used only one triangular shaped piston to create five combustion chambers as it orbited inside a single cylinder.

Huge support from the media, and investments by the public, governments and BHP enabled Sarich to take the engine further. In 1983 it was as good as it was going to get, but still not good enough to replace normal car engines.

A spin-off from the years of research rescued Sarich's company.

Two-stroke engines are lightweight, 'dirty' engines that run mowers, generators and some small cars, motorbikes and boats. The Orbital Engine Co discovered that the sophisticated fuel-injection and combustion system developed for the orbital engine could be used on two-stroke engines, making them much more powerful, fuel-efficient and clean.

The Orbital Combustion Process engine has been refined into a two-stroke engine that is 50% lighter, 30% more fuel efficient, 20% cheaper to make, 70% smaller, and produces 30% less pollution than traditional engines. A plant was established in the USA to build these engines for sale to car, motorcycle and boat manufacturers to test and develop as licensees to the Australian company.

In 1995, Mercury Marine used direct fuel injection to make its high performance outboard motors cleaner and more fuel-efficient. This was the first commercial application of Orbital?s technology.

The Orbital Engine Corp earns its money from the sale of its intellectual property through licence fees and royalties as well as fees for the provision of engineering services. Orbital has earned in excess of $150 million in licence and related fees. Its technology package includes over 1000 patents or patent applications lodged in more than 20 countries worldwide, covering innovation in all aspects of engine and control system technology.

Licensees include General Motors Corporation, Ford Motor Company and Fiat Auto as well as non-automotive companies including Brunswick Corporation (the parent of Mercury Marine), Outboard Marine Corporation, Bajaj Auto Limited and Piaggio V.E.s.P.A. In 1996 Orbital fitted its two-stroke engine to a prototype sports car and a government fleet of Ford Festivas in Australia.

In 2000, Aprilia of Italy released the first two-stroke motorcycle with Orbital?s direct fuel injection technology, and Orbital signed an agreement with Sundiro, one of China's largest scooter manufacturers, to use Orbital?s engine in its popular Chinese scooters.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
Orbital Engine Corporation Limited : R&D, design
Key People
Ralph Sarich : inventor and developer
Kim Schlunke : engineer, director

Further Reading
Tomorrow's World
Michael Soker et al
Associated Publishing Corporation, North Sydney, 1993, p 63.

Links
Orbital Engine Corporation
Profile of Orbital Engine Corp Ltd
Orbital Engine Patent
Article about Orbital engines and scooters in China


The OCP XIHB engine?s technical features. Courtesy Orbital Engine Co.
An Orbital combustion process engine. Courtesy Orbital Engine Co
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