W. D. Thompson

In 1966 a fellow in San Diego, W. H. Thompson, purportedly a retired automotive engineer and executive, along with Kenneth Wright, Roy Burslam, and Len Terry started development of an  electric/steam propulsion system for automobiles.  A luxury car was proposed and a drawing is shown in Vol. 8, #4 1966 “The Steam Automobile”  magazine.  A race car was also, and of course, proposed.  The engine developed for this car has been located in Southern California where the present owner purchased it without provenance at an auction.  The engine is of strange but reasonably good design.  Its construction shows very good workmanship.  At least it uses poppet valves which puts it miles ahead of most home made and home designed steam engines.  The fact that it has a crankshaft and connecting rods puts it miles ahead of most steam engines, now that you mention it, but do not get me started.

The description is quite fascinating.  “According to Thompson, the steam generator is able to produce about 2000 lbs. of steam per hour using “very little” fuel (kerosene).  The combustion chamber is quite small and contains at its center an electrically powered device called a “reactor.”  This unit operates at 3000 degrees F (consuming 1.5 kw of electric power) and is used both to preheat the feed water before admission to the steam-generating portion and to add superheat to the generated steam.”

The promotional material goes on to say that pure oxygen is burned which is produced by electrolysis and that condensation is much easier because an electric refrigeration unit that is “thermostatically controlled” helps cool the condenser.   Mention is made of the benefits of  the added vacuum because of this air conditioned condenser.

All of this electricity comes from a 6 kw alternator unit which is driving by a new two-cycle IC engine, likewise and of course designed by Thompson, that is very small, self-supercharged, and fuel-injected.  The goal is to produce a Ferrari type of a vehicle.

What I like the most about this publicity blurb is that it is so creative that no one can accuse me of making up one word of it.  These things present themselves to me for my personal amusement.  Unfortunately they do not do a whole lot to further anyone’s faith in new steam development.  Any information on where any of this equipment is or any more information on it will be appreciated.  Now that I think about it, any information is probably in the possession of heirs to what was at one time a nice fortune before Mr. Thompson started developing Ferrari type vehicles and thus I should have been more circumspect in my analysis of his work.


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One Response to W. D. Thompson

  1. stevebb says:

    direct production of steam from reacting hydogen stochiometrically(perfect ratio) with oxygen makes for very hot steam.ignites at 570 °C and will reach 2800 °C (@stp)- sounds really good for a superheater if materials can be found/fashioned to withstand those kind of temps reliably
    Electrolyisis could be a great way of producing super pure make up water from combustion condensate, but as I’m sure you know it’ll always take more energy to perform the electroysis than will be got back from the combusion of the oxygen/hydrogen. Would need to burn some conventional fuel too. When conventional fuels are burnt they always produce some water in the exhaust. Now if some of that water in the exhaust gases were condensed and cleaned up, it could be great way of making up steam losses. Even a fully condensing system will lose some water through imperfect seals. If vehicle could “make it’s own water” it make be possible to use smaller and lighter water tank resulting in a higher performance vehicle.

    Another potential use of nearly pure oxygen for a steam engine is many fuels will autoignite the presence of pure oxygen.I’ve wanted to try this myself with a babington type burner, but haven’t ain’t figured out how to produce a oxygen stream seperate from the hydrogen stream (would like to try a cell with proton exchange membraine but don’t know where to get any from/looks very pricy). Anyway that might offer a easy start ability to a boiler. Small tanks for oxygen and hydrogen, produced and kept seperate to store the gases relatively safely ready for starting- a kind of chemical battery. A small drip of conventional liquid fuel(Oil) on to oxyhydrogen burner/starter. oxygen is turned on- oil ignites. Then hydrogen is turned on- the burning oil ignites the oxyhydrogen mix. heat of that should be more than enough to pilot light a big oil burner, without need for spark electrodes/glow bars.

    Agree about poppet valves, but “crankshafts”….
    If going for a 100% hybrid(ie all power from vehicle’s engine goes out as electricity), it seems pretty attractive to take a linear generator and screw pistons onto the ends ie looks somewhat like “pistonlinear generatorpiston” . As that’s a straight “solid” rod between pistons there’sincreased length of guidance for the pistons, and less side forces so less piston slap. But best of all there’s no big/little end bearings so little problem in using double acting cylinders-with a crankshaft&double acting cylinders the bearings can “knock” especially at high rpms,as the crank forces reverse and clearances within the bearings are taken up.
    Arrange 2 of such modules coaxially (complete engine would fit inside a long tube) with engine valved so that piston motion is mirrored and engine vibration should cancel out. 2nd moment of intertia will vary but think that’s less important, especially if engine running at a decent frequency.

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