A team of UT Arlington researchers has created a new power generator that can produce electricity up to 25 percent more efficiently than existing technology, reduce emissions and could alleviate power shortages in more remote areas of the globe.
Raheem Bello, an aerospace engineering doctoral candidate in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, is chief executive officer and cofounder of Afthon. Initially called Detonation Dynamics, Afthon, derived from the Greek word "afthonia" (αφθον?α) for abundance, has entered many technology and commercialization competitions in the past year and won accolades for its innovation, including $25,000 grant funding from VentureWell.
"We're looking for our generators to have the same impact on power that the cell phone had on communications for the 1.3 billion people without access to electricity," Bello said. "There are many areas of the world that can't afford the electricity we take for granted in this country."
Frank Lu, professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department and director of UTA's Aerodynamics Research Center, is Afthon's chief technical officer. Dibesh Joshi is chief research officer. James Peace is chief design officer. Akin Adekeye is chief operating officer. All four officers are cofounders as well.
Lu said the technology has the potential to radically alter the world of energy.
"This kind of innovation shows what our students are capable of," Lu said. "This new energy technology can be a game-changer globally."
Afthon has been invited to six competitions this spring, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers ISHOW. Social media voting in the ASME ISHOW begins Wednesday, April 15. The ASME ISHOW offers up to $500,000 in awards.
Bello recently returned from Winnipeg after taking second place in the logo category of the Stu Clark Investment Competition.
The Afthon team will also be attending The Next Play venture tournament at Davidson College later this week, followed by the Resnick Institute's FLoW competition, MIT's Clean Energy Prize, and UT Austin's Global Venture Labs Investment Competition.
The competitions help Afthon attract financial support as it refines its process, Bello said.
The Afthon process harnesses pressure gain combustion, also known as detonation, which the team has termed "Fire 2.0."
Afthon's patented technology will be able to replace conventional engines in cars, boats, ships, trains, airplanes, rockets and power plants, researchers said. Currently, no pressure gain combustion engines exist on the market.
"Up to 70 percent of energy is lost in current gas turbine combustion engine technology just because that technology hasn't changed in several decades," Bello said. "We capture the bulk of that energy more efficiently so that it's not wasted as heat in the body of the engine."
Afthon's technology burns fuel more than 30 times faster than an original gas engine. The technology uses the same amount of fuel but releases the energy very quickly so that it does the work faster.
"It allows us to rev the engine down," Bello said. "We can decrease the power to 10 percent of the generator's capacity without sacrificing speed and maintaining efficiency."
Another marketable aspect of the process is that it can use many types of fuel, including natural gas, propane, kerosene or diesel.
Thanks to funding from VentureWell, Afthon has developed a lab prototype, and hopes to soon build a field prototype generator, upon raising seed capital. Bello believes technical development could happen in two to three years, understanding that it usually takes technology companies five to seven years to finish this stage.
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