20 December 2013

Air powered Lego car built by Romanian Whiz

A 20-year-old mastermind from Romania has built the world’s first full-size Lego car, with a compressed air-powered Lego engine. It has space for two passengers and can hit a top speed of around 30 kph (18.6 mph). At this point, you should probably watch the rather awesome video, embedded below.

Dubbed the Super Awesome Micro Project, the Lego car was conceived by Steve Sammartino of Melbourne and constructed in Romania by Raul Oaida. The build, which took 20 months to complete, was crowdfunded by 40 patrons to the tune of $22,000. While the car consists of more than 500,000 Lego pieces, the diminutive plastic brick was eschewed for some of the key, load-bearing components, such as the tires and wheels and for things like gauges, which are rather hard to build out of Lego.

The most exciting part of the Lego hot rod, of course, is the engine which, rather miraculously, appears to be fashioned entirely out of Lego. There don’t seem to be many technical details, other than it consists of four separate orbital engines, each equipped with 64 cylinders and pistons. Without seeing inside the engine there’s a bit of a question mark over the “orbital” label orbital engines, which were invented in 1972, are an odd type of engine that, as far as we know, never really got past the prototype stage. It is more likely that the Super Awesome Micro Project is actually powered by a radial engine (and indeed, it looks like a radial engine). In a radial engine, the pistons all work in concert to drive a central crank shaft. Somewhere out of sight is a canister of compressed air that drives each of the 256 pistons.

Sammartino and Oaida say that the hot rod is capable of 20-30 kph, but that they drive it slowly as they’re scared of a ‘giant Lego explosion.’ Presumably there is a hard limit on how much air pressure the Lego cylinders can withstand, and thus how high the engine can rev. Or considering the blocks are almost certainly glued together, maybe the limiting factor is heat dissipation those pistons, without any kind of real air or liquid cooling, are probably generating a fairly large amount of heat.

The Super Awesome Micro Project was a one-off project that was mainly done for self-serving PR reasons Sammartino himself is a marketing guy, and he drummed up crowdfunding by telling the patrons that, “Your association [with the project] will be the most interesting thing on your career or entrepreneurial hacker techie CV.” Oaida, however, is just an all-round Lego nerd and cool guy: you might vaguely remember his name from 2012, when he commemorated the end of the Space Shuttle by floating a Lego Space Shuttle to 35,000 meters the lower edge of the stratosphere (video embedded below).

Now read: Tiny 'Lego brick'-style studs make solar panels a quarter more efficient


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