New Revolutions 

A Richmond inventor gives birth to the kind of engine that engineers’ dreams are made of.

DeFazio, a Pennsylvania native who now works for Engineers Plus in Richmond, says his rotary engine is 50 percent more efficient than a standard engine and can be configured to be about 10 times more powerful per unit of weight. It produces enough torque to need no transmission and can run on diesel or gas without modification. The engine requires no cooling system (the components would be ceramic, not steel, and thus able to withstand temperatures of up to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit). Researchers at Central Michigan University told DeFazio his invention “has everything about an engine a mechanical engineer dreams of.”

A comment by a ceramics expert in 1975 sparked the idea, DeFazio says. “If you could invent a rotary engine that was all of ceramics,” the man said, “you’d be a wealthy man.”

For decades, DeFazio sketched possible designs. Then in February 2001, he realized that occasionally working on the project never would accomplish anything. “I just told myself I’m gonna be dead and never do anything with this,” he says.

So DeFazio left his job and dedicated his full attention to developing the idea. In September 2001, he submitted a design to the U.S. Patent Office. On April 19, the office responded with a letter confirming that the idea was unique and therefore eligible for a patent.

DeFazio’s engine looks little like a traditional engine with pumping pistons. Instead, it features pistons attached to a flywheel that spins, engaging gear-teeth that rotate a central disc. (For those who are technically inclined, a complete description can be found at www.defazio-rotary.com.)

Although he has not yet built a working engine, DeFazio has produced a detailed computer rendering of the engine, a video and a demonstration model. The challenge now, he says, is to find partners to help him develop it for commercial use. “I’ve had a lot of enthusiasm,” he says, “but no one wants to throw money.” Automobile makers are reluctant to consider anything not produced in-house, he says, and after some discussion, the Army said no, too. Even CMU told him the school didn’t have the expertise to help him make a working prototype.

But DeFazio is undeterred. “This is a big thing,” he says of his creation. And he believes it will get its due. S

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