American engineering firm Scuderi has announced the completion of the first prototype of its new ultra-efficient engine design called the ‘split-cycle’. The design uses a revolutionary new system to provide engines that release significantly fewer emissions than current offerings and is claimed to be one of the most efficient internal combustion engine designs in the world.

The prototype is a 1.0L gasoline-powered engine expected to produce up to 80% fewer pollutants than a standard combustion engine. "This is a very important milestone for the Scuderi Group as well as the Scuderi family," said Sal Scuderi, president of the Scuderi Group. "This has been seven years in the making and we're only just beginning to realize the potential that this technology holds. We are eager to conclude licensing discussions with OEMs, so we can see the engine come to life in a variety of vehicles and finally be able to give the driving public a more fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly driving option."

Therein lies the rub - the engine will require substantial investment and development by larger partners before it's ready for prime time. Nevertheless, Scuderi thinks that once fully developed with turbocharged intake and 'air-hybrid' components, it will make a significant leap forward in fuel efficiency. Scuderi analogizes the advance of the split-cycle over today's engines to the advances made by the Otto cycle compared to its predecessors.

Typical combustion engines are roughly 33% efficient at the moment - meaning that they use about 1/3 of the power available in the fuel they burn. The Scuderi engine pushes this figure to nearly 40%, a significant improvement, achieved through some clever technology.

The Scuderi engine splits the strokes of the four-stroke cycle over a pair of dedicated compression and power cylinders, meaning that the design of each cylinder can be independently optimized to perform the separate and distinct tasks of compression and power. This means that engines can be designed in ways that were impossible before, making the technology one of the most sought after products in the industry.

Scuderi is planning on introducing both petrol and diesel prototypes, with both engines greatly reducing emissions and increasing fuel-efficiency. As yet, no plans for commercial application of the engine have been announced. The prototype will be officially unveiled April 20 at the 2009 Society of Automotive Engineers' World Congress in Detroit.