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How the Wave Disk Generator Works

The wave disk generator was built by a group of researchers at Michigan State University.
The wave disk generator was built by a group of researchers at Michigan State University.
Mark A. Cunningham/Getty Images

Despite its name, the wave disk generator (WDG) won't help you catch any actual waves and it doesn't even generate disks. Surfers and Discobolus-lovers everywhere are now crying. But what it does do, in theory at least, is generate power for your car.

The WDG (no relation to WMDs), is a newly designed generator that uses battery power, oxygen and good old-fashioned gasoline to spin an internal disk extremely fast to produce power for a car. OK, so let's get this out of the way first. Yes, this new idea for propelling a vehicle sill requires the use of gasoline. Although we have computers in our pockets and landing on the moon is beyond old news, gasoline is still pretty effective. Why? Well, gasoline is very good at exploding, and when explosions happen, things tend to move.

What's great about the WDG is that the amount of gasoline it needs is far less than an internal combustion engine (ICE). An ICE engine uses only about 15 percent of its fuel for propulsion [source: Boyle]. Fifteen percent! That means that 85 percent is being spent-up and basically going to waste. To put it in perspective, think of fuel as the money you bring home from work. If the government took 85 percent of your income, you'd be working really hard for almost nothing. True, an ICE engine is an amazing invention -- but efficient it is not.

So why is the WDG the anti-engine? Probably because it doesn't have any internal moving parts. Pistons? Don't need 'em. Crankshaft? Nope. Transmission? Forget about it! Ok, you get the idea. Oh, and you don't need any cooling system or lubricants either. It's the anti-engine in part because it's not actually an engine but also because this propulsion system could revolutionize the way we move our vehicles. But we've all heard that before, so what makes this one so special? To figure that out, we need to know how the WDG actually works.