xTechSearch finalist’s light engine yields big payoff for Army

By Brian LandonNovember 21, 2022

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON – Efficient logistical support is a critical element of Soldier readiness. LiquidPiston, a finalist in the U.S. Army’s xTechSearch 3 competition, is developing a revolutionary engine that can enhance operations during routine logistical tasks, such as transporting fuel across dangerous warzones.

LiquidPiston’s Hybrid Electric X-Engine utilizes their patented high-efficiency hybrid cycle technology to create a rotary diesel engine that is compact and fuel-efficient. The HEXE is up to 90% smaller and lighter than a traditional piston diesel engine and up to 30% more fuel efficient. In addition, the platform can provide direct and hybrid electric propulsive power to meet the Army’s Future Vertical Lift goals.

For the Army, this means the weight of equipment is drastically reduced and requires less fuel for operation. Soldiers can spend less time on logistics and more time conducting safe and successful operations.

“Our technology can reduce a currently-fielded 1,000-pound ground power generator down to approximately 200 pounds,” said Alec Shkolnik, founder and CEO of LiquidPiston. “This reduces the logistical burdens and increases the in-field capabilities of the warfighter.”

The xTech Program is led by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, and announced LiquidPiston as a finalist in xTechSearch 3 in September 2020. The business received a cash prize of $145,000 for the HEXE technology’s ability to not only create efficiencies for the Soldier, but for its potential to save lives. The HEXE offers a reliable hybrid-electric platform that is power-dense, low-vibration and compatible with jet fuel. It can also toggle between all-electric, engine-only, or a combination of both, while being able to restart the engine in air.

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Shkolnik said the business’ participation in xTech propelled LiquidPiston to the next stage of an Army partnership. In August 2022, the business received a $1.7 million Phase II Small Business Innovation Research contract award to continue development of the HEXE for Army use.

“We successfully completed a Phase I SBIR in 2020 by prototyping and demonstrating the value of our technology to the Army’s FVL modernization priorities,” Shkolnik said. “This showcases the Army’s interest in fuel-efficient power that benefits the Soldier, as well as the value that the xTech Program brings in helping small businesses get their foot in the door.”

In addition to the current Phase II SBIR, LiquidPiston has other military efforts underway. These include contracts with the DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory and the U.S. Air Force. All this work focuses on the “less is more” energy construct for engines, and the reassurance that Soldiers and all warfighters can conduct routine operations with greater efficiency and safety.

For more information on LiquidPiston, visit their website at www.liquidpiston.com.

Established in 2018, the Army xTech Program strives to integrate small businesses and non-traditional vendors into the Army’s science and technology ecosystem by providing opportunities for direct exposure to laboratories, program executive offices and program managers from across the Army. Participants receive detailed feedback from Army and DoD stakeholders and have access to training, mentorship, and other support infrastructure as they progress through the competition to determine how best to align their technology solutions with real users and buyers within the Army.

The xTech Program holds several competitions per year, from open-topic competitions such as xTechSearch, to technology-specific competitions targeting specific Army needs and challenges. For all competition information, go to https://www.xtechsearch.army.mil/.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology provides the American Soldier with a decisive advantage in any mission by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world's finest equipment and services, and by leveraging technologies and capabilities to meet current and future Army needs.