The Comprex supercharger becomes… “2.0” and roars again

The Comprex supercharger becomes… “2.0” and roars again

In Switzerland, the supercharging system based on a cylindrical impeller and pressure waves, used in the 80s, has been improved

The Comprex supercharger built by the Antrova company in the Canton of Schaffhausen
The Comprex supercharger built by the Antrova company in the Canton of Schaffhausen

The Comprex supercharger, as well as the turbocharger, is a Swiss invention, notably by Brown, Boveri & Cie.
It uses pressure waves in direct contact with the exhaust gases, with fresh air used for supercharging, while a turbocharger couples two so-called flow machines (a turbine and a compressor).
Now a new project, called “Comprex 2.0”, has shown many advantages in combination with a natural gas engine.

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The plate of the Diesel Comprex engine on the Opels of the 80s
The plate of the Diesel Comprex engine on the Opels of the 80s

In the 80s Diesels from Opel and Mazda had many problems

In the 80s, Comprex superchargers were used in diesel passenger cars from Opel and Mazda. But the compressor had drawbacks: during cold starts, it was difficult to build the pressure wave generation process, and temperature-related effects during load changes led to higher pollutant emissions and efficiency problems.

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The Ferrari 021 engine used in Formula 1 in 1981 and equipped in Long Beach testing with a Comprex instead of a common turbo
The Ferrari 021 engine used in Formula 1 in 1981 and equipped in Long Beach testing with a Comprex instead of a common turbo

What differentiates the compressor from a normal turbo…

The Comprex consists of a cylindrical impeller with several straight internal ducts of different diameters: it is driven directly by the engine, into which the air enters on one side, then used for combustion, and the exhaust gases on the other.
The flows of the two gases enter the impeller tubes from opposite sides, and collide with each other, while the impeller rotates opening and closing the "ports" through which the gases flow, after which the exhaust gases escape from the exhaust while the intake air , compressed by the pressure of the exhaust gases, is conveyed into the combustion chamber, at a much higher pressure than atmospheric pressure.

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In practice for the 1981 West USA Grand Prix, the Ferrari 126s took on the CX designation due to the use of the Comprex supercharger (Photo: Daniele Amaduzzi)
In practice for the 1981 West USA Grand Prix, the Ferrari 126s took on the CX designation due to the use of the Comprex supercharger (Photo: Daniele Amaduzzi)

Experiments in Formula 1 in 1981 also on the Ferrari 126 CX

The device was tested by Ferrari in Formula 1. In addition to testing sessions, it was used in tests for the first race of the 1981 season in Long Beach.
It was installed on the supercharged Ferrari 126 C, which assumed the name 126 CX, and compared with the classic turbocharger (car called 126 CK).
These trials continued throughout the winter and into the spring preceding the start of the World Championship, but after the first two races the choice definitively fell on the more reliable turbocharger, as the strong inertia of the heavy Comprex drum (designed for road), subjected to the sudden accelerations of the racing engine, tended to break the rubber belt that set it in motion.
The reduced budget of the Maranello team did not allow the development costs of the system to be covered in a competitive key and the Comprex left the Circus racing scene.

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The Comprex supercharger built by the Antrova company in the Canton of Schaffhausen
The Comprex supercharger built by the Antrova company in the Canton of Schaffhausen

An ideal coupling with the electric thanks to the Antrova

Meanwhile, the engineers of the Swiss company Antrova AG from Stein am Rhein in the Canton of Schaffhausen have further developed the Comprex compressor.
Supported by an electric motor, it runs smoothly under all conditions, and a new design of the so-called cell rotor or cylindrical impeller completely solves the difficulties caused by temperature fluctuations.
The EMPA researchers, in collaboration with a commercial vehicle manufacturer and the Comprex manufacturer, engineered a natural gas engine with a “Comprex 2.0” compressor and were able to demonstrate that the new design works perfectly, both in cold start, than in warm and dynamic operating conditions.

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The Antrova logo
The Antrova logo

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The "Miller cycle" is an alternative to the "Otto cycle" and "Atkinson cycle"

In contrast to its turbocharged counterpart, the engine delivers enormously high torque practically already from idle speed, which on the one hand improves drivability and, in combination with so-called Miller operation and a gear ratio adjustment, helps to save fuel.
The "Miller cycle", conceived by the homonymous American engineer Ralph Miller, who patented it with number 2817322 on December 24, 1957, is a variation of the "Otto cycle", in which an attempt is made to increase efficiency, as well as the " Atkinson cycle".
The principle is to have a compression ratio lower than the expansion ratio (while in the "Otto cycle" or "Diesel cycle" these two phases are identical), leading to a shorter compression phase than the d phase. expansion, which improves the amount of energy extracted in the form of pressure from combustion.

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In practice for the 1981 West USA Grand Prix, the Ferrari 126s took on the CX designation due to the use of the Comprex supercharger
In practice for the 1981 West USA Grand Prix, the Ferrari 126s took on the CX designation due to the use of the Comprex supercharger

The new compressor warms up better and gives more “engine braking”

At the same time, the catalytic converter of the "Comprex 2.0" heats up six times faster than in a turbo engine, which ensures better exhaust gas values.
Finally, the "Comprex 2.0" allows a high braking effect of the engine, with the result that truckers will have to use the mechanical brakes much less frequently.

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In the engine laboratory of EMPA, the Comprex compressor was tested together with a natural gas powered engine
In the engine laboratory of EMPA, the Comprex compressor was tested together with a natural gas powered engine