Whatever happened to ball valves?

A few years back I read a promotional article about a design group that had developed what was essentially ball valves on a stick to replace valvetrains. After some years of research and design, and some modern ceramics magic, they had built and tested an IC engine using the system and were looking to liscense it.

The idea was that with properly designed rotating ball valves the restrictions to the passage of gasses into and out of the cylinders could be substantially reduced (pulling and pushing through holes instead of past valves), and that the energy lost (expended) constantly squeezing all those valve springs and pushing and pulling all those valvetrain parts back and forth could be used to move the car instead.

It sounded like a great idea and the test results on the prototype engine looked great. They were looking to liscense the technology.

I wonder what happened to that idea.

One of the problems with valves that slide like the ball valve, the sleeve valve, and rotary valve is that they are subject to fouling and binding as coked oil builds up in the clearance spaces. Usually these work quite well until the drive linkage breaks.

These guys had apparently solved these problems with their design and had successfully performed accelerated life testing on prototype engines. This was a legit design firm, not some inventor, so I don’t doubt that it’s a viable solution. My guess is that the cost of manufacturing the system is probably prohibitive. Still, I liked the concept.

Perhaps the problem is simply lack of interest. My musing on the subject certainly didn’t seem to generate any.

I don’t have much knowledge of the ball valve system other than vaguely hearing of it some years ago but the idea is intriguing if the bugs can be worked out.

Recently I heard that GM is deep into or working on releasing an engine with electrical solenoid operated valves. This has been around for a few years but has not been put into production by anyone as far as I know.
Supposedly the test beds are up and running, no valve train noise or power loss, and valve timing can be easily tweaked inside the car with a laptop.

re-inventing the mouse trap.
Like the wankel rotory engine, essentialy a different way of doing the same thing.

I’ve read about this system too. Early problems were with the valve speeds (solenoid speeds) being incapable of operating fast enough at higher RPMs.

We’ll see where it all goes. If EVs become feisable and coommon, as I suspect they will, it’ll all be moot anyway.

I guess I just like trying new ways of doing things.

Much as multiport fuel injection is just a different way of metering fuel than carburators, and thin film is just a different way of controlling circuits than doped solid-state transistor, and solid state devices were just a different way of controlling circuits that gas tubes, perhaps this different way will be better.

Whenever “good enough” gets into production, and it is reliable, it usually is hard to replace with a more expensive system that requires strange parts or odd castings.

Recently I heard that GM is deep into or working on releasing an engine with electrical solenoid operated valves.

I first read about that idea some 30 years ago in Popular Science. The concept is great. Infinity variable valve timing.

The problem was reliability. Never heard about the speed problem that MB said…But if they can solve these problems then it’s a great idea.