Thursday, June 02, 2005

Cryogenics and Gas Mileage (Updated)

(Updated to include Ceramics at bottom)
From Oklahoma City KFOR-TV Channel 4 (via a Free Republic link) comes this story of fantastic gas mileage that sounds really cool. No, I mean really, REALLY cool.

There is a man who fills up his tank once every two months. One tank of gas, literally, lasts him two months. He is freezing the price of gas by freezing something else.
David Hutchison is a Cryogenics expert. He built this Cryo-Process himself. He runs a business out of his garage where he cryogenically tempers all kinds of metals. He submerges them in a frozen tank of nitrogen vapor that is 300 degrees below zero.
David says, “During that time, at minus 300 degrees, the molecules slow down. Then they reorganize themselves. That's when the actual chemical change happens.”
A hybrid Honda typically gets really great gas mileage anyway, around 50 miles to the gallon, but David Hutchison's cryogenically tempered engine has been known to get close to 120 miles a gallon.

Now I haven't been involved in metallurgy since my days in powdered metal technology that ended 15 years ago, and had not previously heard anything about this idea. The only methods available to reduce dependence on foreign oil are to increase the domestic supply, and/or to reduce consumption. Following some links provided in the commentary, I did some reading to see what information I could find on increasing gas mileage. First stop was Cold Facts, a quarterly publication of the Cryogenic Society of America, Inc. (CSA):

The Tough Questions: Does It Work? How?

There is a lot of material available extolling the effects of cryogenic treatment on a whole range of materials, from tool steel to nylon
stockings. Testimonials abound. Yet there is also a scepticism and even a feeling that the whole thing is "black magic". As an
article in the June 1987 issue of Popular Science asks, "If cryogenic treatment is so good--and relatively cheap--why
isn't it universally applied?" The magazine answered, "For one thing, it doesn't always work; and when it will work
[it] is not always predictable."

No mention of improved gas mileage there. Moving right along, the next stop is Diversified Cryogenics, a commercial enterprise offering a number of services, among them some relating to motorsports.

Cryogenic tempering is changing the face of motorsports!

Virtually all engine parts respond to cryogenic treatment. Treated piston rings seal better against treated cylinder walls reducing blow-by and increasing horsepower. Cylinder blocks do not distort when subjected to the heat and vibration of racing so cylinder bores stay straight and smooth. Aluminum pistons and cylinder heads resist detonation longer. Crankshafts and connecting rods have longer service life without breaking. Camshafts, bearings, timing gears, valves and valve springs, timing chains and tappets all last significantly longer under severe conditions. Bottom line: cryogenically-treated racing engines last three to five times longer.

They make a good case for improved durability, but no mention of improved gas mileage. Next stop is Cyrogenics International, another commercial enterprise supplying Automotive Cryogenic Treatment Applications. Here we finally find some claims of increaserd gas mileage, sort of, since it's in the form of testimonials rather than product claims. The sourcing is not helpful (italics mine).


Eliminated breakage of automotive components. Axles, gears, yokes, etc. "After CI treatment I couldn't break my axle, even on purpose!"
Source - A champion drag racer.

Cryogenics International treated spark plugs showed an increase from 9 to 25 horsepower on a V-8 racing engine and also increased gas mileage.

Source - A racing engine builder.

To this point, all references to automobile engines have been in the competitive arena. The trend continues as we visit 300Below, again with a testimonial, but this one is identified:

"Not only did (my 1996 Suzuki GSX-R 1100 motor) surpass my expectations, it blew them out of the water. I noticed improvements in compression, fuel economy, engine vibration and transmission shifting. I can't wait to freeze everything I own."

David Stanton
Endurance and Formula USA Team Ride

Other than testimonials, I was unable to find any information that indicated that improved gas mileage would result from employing a cryogenicly treated automobile engine. Commenters in the original Free Republic thread were very skeptical of the mileage benefits of this treatment.

Update: (6/1/05 12:30 AM CDT) I was really surprised at the amount of hits I've received from people doing Google searches on David+Hutchison+cryogenics.

Update: (06/02/05 3:30 PM CDT) Patterico's Pontifications has commentary on the use of ceramics in internal combustion engines. Read the comments, also. He provides a link for those interested in ceramic basics. Is this the way to go to improve efficiency? For those interested, Rob Wolf posted some notes on heat transfer work he did years ago, and mentions ceramic coatings. Ibis Associates, Inc. has a listing of papers and publications that are not, unfortunately, available online. More info available here, here (free trial sign up required to get full article), and more basic info here.

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