ClarianLabs in Seattle, an energy technology incubator, has published a patent for a device called the Rotary Piston Generator (RPG) which the company hopes will challenge the very concept of batteries, and how they are used, especially in vehicles.

The RPG is a mechanical rather than chemical approach to portable energy storage. Its energy capacity is potentially ten times greater than a typical battery, company representatives wrote in an email exchange with TechCrunch.

That depends on the kind of fuel it uses: the invention is essentially just a very tiny, highly efficient engine.

ClarianLabs’ published patent shows the RPG contains “induction armature that rotates around a fixed shaft inside a rotary piston.” As they rotate relative to one another, the parts generate electricity (kind of like a diesel engine).

The RPG doesn’t require a separate generator, starter or gearbox. It can ostensibly run on a variety of fuels, including: gasoline, kerosene, propane, natural gas, ethanol, methanol or hydrogen.

The company previously won GE‘s Consumer Innovation Award in the 2010 Ecomagination Challenge, for its SmartBox Solar module design, which is a “plug-n-play” solar concept for the home. Basically, it’s a small solar panel you can plug your appliances into directly.

The full story and more can be found on TechCrunch.

Picture: Nissan Motor’s workers install a battery and other components into the body of Leaf electric vehicle on the assembly line at the company’s Oppama plant in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture on January 25, 2011.