There's only one thing I regret about writing this piece, and that's that I'm going to give a so-called 'miracle engine' even more publicity than it deserves. But respectable news sites have already given time and space to an 'engine' that was first publicly shown at the recent auto show in Los Angeles, writes Karl Ludvigsen.

It goes by the handle of 'Mighty Engine' or 'MYT Engine' and is the work of Raphial Morgado of Angel Labs LLC of Lodi, California. Their website is www.angellabsllc.com.

You'll be stunned, stupefied and staggered by the claims made for this engine. Claimed to lack 80% of the parts of a conventional engine, it is said to pack 848 cubic inches of swept volume into a cube 14 inches on a side and weighing only 150 pounds. Its output is forecast as 850 bhp normally aspirated and as much as 3,000 bhp when supercharged. Naturally it's claimed to have minimal emissions and fuel consumption and to be easy to manufacture. 'We're hoping that the fact that it can be constructed without major retooling means that it's suitable for a rapid commercial launch by engine-manufacturing licensees,' inventor Morgado told www.americanantigravity.com in an exclusive interview.

All you hard-working engine designers and developers out there will be mortified to know that the potential of such an engine was right under your noses all the time, a powerplant that's 'a breakthrough of immense proportions that will spawn the next industrial revolution and will rocket the internal combustion engine into the next millennium,' to quote the Angel Labs website.

Aren't you ashamed of having failed to spot and exploit such an obvious engineering breakthrough?

'Angel Labs is a close-knit family of professionals working as a team to make my inventions into viable products,' says former drag racer Morgado. 'Angel Labs is composed of inventors, scientists, engineers, business managers, computer technicians, programmers, machinists, engine experts, patent attorneys, business consultants etc. As Angel Labs grows, different teams will be able to develop individual and numerous inventions simultaneously under my direction. Ultimately, the goal is to introduce several revolutionary products every quarter of the year.'

By now you must be wondering just how this miracle has been achieved. The heart of the MYT Engine is a an operating cylinder that's been bent to form a complete circle, a toroid like the negative volume of a doughnut. Circulating in it, guided by levers from the centre, are ringed pistons so compact that they're more like paddles. There are eight pistons in all that are sorted into two sets of four. Each set is mounted in a cruciform pattern. An ingenious if bulky and elaborate mechanism allows the two pairs of four pistons to rotate in the toroid and, at the same time, carry out a clap-hands motion that opens and closes the volumes between them. In just a half-revolution of the toroid each piston pair carries out the complete four-stroke cycle, inhaling and exhausting through peripheral ports.

If it were to function — the MYT hasn't run yet — the engine would produce 16 power strokes per revolution of its output shaft. For this reason its developers are claiming credit for four times the swept volume that the engine actually has. This is specious. Swept volume of an engine is the sum of the difference between maximum and minimum volume of all its chambers, which in the case of the MYT Engine prototype is 212 cubic inches or 3.5 litres. It's extremely commendable to have packed so much swept volume into a small package, but it's far short of the claimed 13.9 litres.

No matter what an engine's cycling relationship is to its output shaft, we don't credit it with more or less swept volume accordingly. Plenty of engines, including some classic racing and aero units, have geared output shafts for various functional reasons. The MYT design can be seen as having a freakishly slow output shaft in relation to its firing rate, which can cause as many problems as it solves.

You'll be well aware that toroidal engines are anything but new. In France Dewandre built one in 1905 that was revived as the Esselbe for aviation in 1912. Another French effort around that time was the Beck engine. In the 1930s John Paddon's design used cams to control the pistons in the toroid, while at the end of that decade BSA built an engine for possible moped use. In Nebraska's Omaha engineer Louis Wolff built toroidal engines for both vehicles and aircraft during the 1930s. Strong claims for products of his Toroidal Aircraft Motors Company failed to translate into practice.

After World War II two major efforts to develop toroidal engines were mounted. One was by veteran engineer Granville Bradshaw, whose wartime concept, his Omega, ingeniously rotated its toroid around cyclic piston motions. Bradshaw built 1,100 and 1,250 cc versions of his engine, which was widely publicised in the 1950s. The other effort was Traugott Tschudi's design of the 1960s, which drove its pistons through rollers and cams. Though hoping to capitalise on the post-Wankel boom of interest in radical engines, Swiss engineer Tschudi failed to make headway.

None of these unsuccessful toroidal engines had anything like the power density expected from the MYT design. Those designed by competent engineers had cooling systems, conspicuously absent from Morgado's concept. Sealing is a huge challenge; the MYT prototype shows but a single ring facing each side of a combustion chamber. No comment is made by the developers about the sealing requirements of the arms and surfaces needed to actuate the pistons — though they'll be severe.

The Angel Labs people like to show their engine in contrast to massively huge and heavy conventional powerplants. In fact its forecast specific power is pretty close to that being developed by current Formula 1 engines. They're getting 700+ horsepower from 2.4-litre V8s that weigh less than 200 pounds — not all that far from the MYT claims. And those engines are running with impressive durability!

If by some miracle the MYT Engine could be made to work, its lack of cooling and indeed lubrication would mandate manufacturing it from ultra-high-temperature alloys or ceramics — hardly the low-cost solution that 'will rocket the internal combustion engine into the next millennium'. In short, the MYT will never make an engine. It could however be the basis of an interesting pump!

- Karl Ludvigsen

Karl Ludvigsen is an award-winning author, historian and consultant who has worked in senior positions for GM, Fiat and Ford. In the 1980s and 1990s he ran the London-based motor-industry management consultancy, Ludvigsen Associates. He is currently an independent consultant and the author of more than three dozen books about cars and the motor industry, including Creating the Customer-Driven Car Company.