The Shock Wave Fuel Reformer is based on a device known as a wave rotor. A wave rotor is a little known type of turbo machine – think jet engine. Unlike conventional compressors and turbines that exchange energy with a shaft, a wave rotor exchanges energy between two working fluids in direct contact. The energy exchange is accomplished using shock waves.
An exploded view of a wave rotor is shown below. The main component of a wave rotor is the rotor. The rotor has straight vanes that are connected at the hub and the tip creating an array of straight channels around the rotor. On either end of the rotor there are stationary end plates with ports machined in them. As the rotor rotates, the channel ends are either next to a wall (closed) or next to a port (open) so that the combination of the end plate and spinning rotor behave as a set of fast-acting valves on the channel ends.
The process onboard the rotor is called Methane Thermal Cracking (MTC). The MTC process is driven by shock wave heating onboard the rotor where methane (or natural gas) is brought onboard the wave reformer where it is compression-heated using shock waves. This process is represented graphically below.