NEW YORK – Employing technology developed in pharmaceutical aerosol delivery systems, Detroit-based Nostrum Motors plans fleet trials of a new, vastly more efficient fuel injector beginning later this year.

The company claims its new injector produces 20% better fuel economy for most gasoline- or diesel-fueled internal-combustion engines.

Nirmal Mulye, inventor and chairman of parent company Nostrum Pharmaceuticals, says the injector can be used in existing engines with conventional electronic controls.

His group also is working on a new 100 mpg (2.3 L/100 km) engine that could be on the road by the end of the decade. The new engine is cooled internally, allowing the radiator to be reduced in size or completely eliminated and lowering the amount of precious metals used in catalytic converters, Mulye says.

The injectors are being developed with and tested by independent companies, including engineering specialist Ricardo and supplier Mahle Powertrain. Michigan Technological University, which runs one of the nation’s most advanced IC-engine research facilities, also is collaborating on development.

Mulye launched Nostrum Pharmaceuticals in his hometown of Princeton, NJ, to manufacture his aerosol drug products, as well as generic and specialty pharmaceuticals. “That's where I made my money, and it funds the engine project now,” he tells WardsAuto in an interview here.

Mulye says he's had the idea for a high-mileage engine since he bought a used ’76 Chevrolet Camaro while working on his Ph.D. It averaged 10 mpg (23.5 L/100 km) and leaked plenty of oil.

Since then, his goal has been to develop an engine that could produce good performance and still be fuel-efficient.

Working weekends and nights, Mulye invented his revolutionary injector and engine. In 2008, he created Nostrum Motors and Nostrum Power as wholly owned subsidiaries of the drug company to develop and commercialize the engine.

He hired Bruce Coventry, a veteran Detroit engine expert, to head Nostrum Motors. Coventry worked for each of the Detroit Three and spent 18 years with General Motors, where he helped develop 6-cyl. engines, and eight years at Ford, where he worked on development of the Duratec engine.

From 2002 to 2008, Coventry was president of the Chrysler-Mitsubishi joint venture engine plant in Dundee, MI, known as Global Engine Mfg. Alliance.

Mulye says the concept behind the injectors is so simple that once he completed the prototype, he slapped his head because he couldn’t believe no one had thought of it before.

Coventry says fuel injectors have not changed dramatically since they were introduced in 1902. Basically, they force liquid under pressure through a very small hole. Engine makers have made the hole smaller and smaller and raised pressures to as much as 30,000 psi (2,068 bar) for some of today's diesel injectors.

Gasoline injectors currently operate at about 50 psi (3.4 bar), with GDI pressures running as high as 1,740 psi (120 bar). Some push liquid faster than the speed of sound.

“You can hold your hand over our injector and not get hurt, because the spray breaks up within a few millimeters after it leaves the injector,” Mulye says. He discovered that from developing his pharmaceutical injectors employed in nebulizers, a device used to deliver medication in the form of mist that can be inhaled.

Mulye has filed for patent protection and is keeping mum about precisely how the injector works until the patent process is completed.

“It looks like a shower head,” he says of his new injector. “The only thing we're changing is the geometry of the tip of the injector.”

The orifices are the same size as in conventional injectors or even bigger, Mulye adds.

“We can get 50 times more droplets out of our injectors,” Coventry says. “The drops are smaller and burn more quickly.”

Because of Nostrum's proprietary process, the mix breaks up almost instantly after being injected. “With conventional injectors, you can paint a 20-ft.-high ceiling,” Coventry says.

The Nostrum technology results in up to a 20% increase in fuel efficiency, he claims.

The commercial injector will be a premium product, but Coventry promises a payback period of less than 24 months because of lower refueling costs due to the injector's greater efficiency.

Engine Injects Water to Help Power Piston

Nostrum says it is in the final stages of securing a contract with a fleet operator for a small-scale trial of the injectors, declining to identify the company.

Currently, Nostrum is producing its injectors only by the dozens to meet developmental needs. It is seeking to acquire an injector manufacturer in the U.S. to begin higher-volume production of the devices.

The injectors are merely the initial step toward Nostrum developing a revolutionary engine capable of achieving a fuel efficiency of at least 100 mpg. A key feature of the Nostrum engine will be an internal water-steam cooling system that would reduce the size of the radiator and ultimately the catalytic converter.

“You don't have to clean up dirt that's not produced,” Coventry says.

In the experimental engine, water is injected into the cylinder and heated under compression until it turns to steam. Water expands 1,250 times when it is vaporized, and that expansion provides added power to drive the piston.

Until Nostrum's current developmental work, it was widely believed that water evaporates and disappears because of the heat produced in the cylinder. Mulye’s breakthrough came in challenging that notion.

“My calculation back in 1987 was that very little water will evaporate,” he says.

At present, the Nostrum engine injects a variable amount of water into the cylinder, depending on the amount of fuel being burned, and the water is recovered and used again as part of a closed-loop system.

A separate water tank, about the size of a windshield washer-fluid bottle, is required to supply the water and it must be heated to prevent freezing in cold weather. The tank looks like the container that holds urea used to treat the emissions in many of today's diesel engines.

Conventional engines transmit less than 15% of the energy they produce to a vehicle's wheels and about 20% to the driveshaft (as high as 30% at very high load).

“Most of the time a car is working at 10% of its power,” Coventry says. “We think we can raise that efficiency to as high as 60% to the shaft and 45% to the wheels.”

Nostrum is targeting at least 100 mpg with both conventional IC diesel and gasoline engines. Fuel efficiency could go higher by adding a stop/start system and other technologies or by switching to a hybrid powertrain.

This fuel efficiency can be achieved without diminishing horsepower, Coventry says.

An added benefit is the clean exhaust produced by the Nostrum engine.

“It produces practically zero NOx (oxides of nitrogen),” Coventry claims. “You don't need highly loaded catalytic converters or SCR (selective catalytic reduction) systems.”

Reducing the amount of precious metals in the converters can reduce costs up to $300 per vehicle, he says. SCR systems can cost as much as $20,000 for large trucks.

Nostrum says it has begun a joint development project with one of the Detroit Three, but Mulye and Coventry decline to reveal the automaker’s identity. They forecast it will take at least a decade before they can bring a complete Nostrum engine to market.

“But we can see versions of this engine before 2020,” Coventry says.