Can you imagine a future where your car is fueled by iron powder instead of gasoline?
Metal powders, produced using clean primary energy sources, could provide a more viable long-term replacement for fossil fuels than other widely discussed alternatives, such as hydrogen, biofuels or batteries, according to a study in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal Applied Energy.
“Technologies to generate clean electricity – primarily solar and wind power – are being developed rapidly; but we can’t use that electricity for many of the things that oil and gas are used for today, such as transportation and global energy trade,” notes McGill University professor Jeffrey Bergthorson, lead author of the new study.
“Biofuels can be part of the solution, but won’t be able to satisfy all the demand; hydrogen requires big, heavy fuel tanks and is explosive, and batteries are too bulky and don’t store enough energy for many applications,” says Bergthorson, a mechanical engineering professor and Associate Director of the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design at McGill. “Using metal powders as recyclable fuels that store clean primary energy for later use is a very promising alternative solution.”
The Applied Energy paper, co-authored by Bergthorson with five other McGill researchers and a European Space Agency scientist in the Netherlands, lays out a novel concept for using tiny metal particles – similar in size to fine flour or icing sugar – to power external-combustion engines.
Unlike the internal-combustion engines used in gasoline-powered cars, external-combustion engines use heat from an outside source to drive an engine. External-combustion engines, modern versions of the coal-fired steam locomotives that drove the industrial era, are widely used to generate power from nuclear, coal or biomass fuels in power stations.
The idea of burning metal powders is nothing new – they’ve been used for centuries in fireworks, for instance. Since the mid-20th century, they’ve also been used in rocket propellants, such as the space shuttle’s solid-fuel booster rockets. But relatively little research has been done in recent decades on the properties of metal flames, and the potential for metal powders to be used as a recyclable fuel in a wide range of applications has been largely overlooked by scientists.
Recyclable after combustion
The idea put forward by the McGill team takes advantage of an important property of metal powders: when burned, they react with air to form stable, nontoxic solid-oxide products that can be collected relatively easily for recycling – unlike the CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels that escape into the atmosphere.
Using a custom-built burner, the McGill researchers demonstrated that a flame can be stabilized in a flow of tiny metal particles suspended in air. Flames from metal powders “appear quite similar” to those produced by burning hydrocarbon fuels, the researchers write. “The energy and power densities of the proposed metal-fueled heat engines are predicted to be close to current fossil-fueled internal combustion engines, making them an attractive technology for a future low-carbon society.”
Iron could be the primary candidate for this purpose, according to the study. Millions of tons of iron powders are already produced annually for the metallurgy, chemical and electronic industries. And iron is readily recyclable with well-established technologies, and some novel techniques can avoid the carbon dioxide emissions associated with traditional iron production using coal.
Next step: building a prototype
While laboratory work at McGill and elsewhere has shown that the use of metal fuels with heat engines is technically feasible, no one has yet demonstrated the idea in practice. The next step toward turning the lab findings into usable technology, therefore, will be “to build a prototype burner and couple it to a heat engine,” Bergthorson says. “Developing metal recycling processes that don’t involve CO2 emissions is also critical.”
Co-author David Jarvis, head of strategic and emerging technologies at the European Space Agency, adds: “We are very interested in this technology because it opens the door to new propulsion systems that can be used in space and on earth. The shift away from fossil fuels for vehicle propulsion is a clear trend for the future. While not perfected and commercialized today, the use of low-cost metallic fuels, like iron powder, is a worthy alternative to petrol and diesel fuels. If we can demonstrate, for the first time, an iron-fueled engine with almost zero CO2 emissions, we believe this would then trigger even more innovation and cost reduction in the near future.”
The Latest on: Metal fuels
via Google News
The Latest on: Metal fuels
- Russian lawmaker says water, soil samples from fuel spill held up at airporton June 27, 2020 at 6:57 am
Water and soil samples that were taken near the site of a giant fuel spill in the Russia's Arctic and prepared for tests at an independent lab have been held up at the Norilsk airport, a lawmaker and ...
- American Battery Metals Corporation Assesses Lithium-Ion Supply Chain Economy Amid Global Interruptionon June 27, 2020 at 3:29 am
INCLINE VILLAGE, NV / ACCESSWIRE / June 26, 2020 / American Battery Metals Corporation (OTCQB: ABML ) (the & quot;Company & quot;), an American-owned advanced extraction and battery recycling ...
- Gold steadies as new infections fuel worrieson June 25, 2020 at 12:27 pm
Gold prices drifted sideways on Thursday as a surge in coronavirus cases and mounting economic tolls kept investors on edge, though the metal stepped back from last session's more than 7-1/2-year high ...
- PRECIOUS-Gold steadies as new infections fuel worrieson June 25, 2020 at 12:09 pm
Falls in gold being viewed as buying opportunities -Commerzbank * Platinum drops to more than one-week low * For an interactive graphic tracking the global coronavirus spread, open in an external ...
- Editorial: Greatest Generation sacrificed food, fuel, lives. We can wear a damn mask, Texas.on June 24, 2020 at 4:50 pm
The “greatest generation,” suffered immeasurably to protect our rights; the least we can do is to put up with minor discomforts to protect them (and us).
- Taronis Fuels Releases New MagneGas Product Videoon June 24, 2020 at 10:18 am
Taronis Fuels, Inc., (“Taronis” or the “Company”) (TRNF), a global producer of renewable and socially responsible fuel products, today released a new MagneGas product video as part of a comprehensive ...
- Highly modular metal-organic framework-based materials show great potential for photocatalytic hydrogen productionon June 22, 2020 at 9:26 am
A metal organic framework (MOF)-based water splitting photocatalyst, developed at KAUST, has brought researchers a step closer to generating clean hydrogen fuel using sunlight.
- Aerospace and Defense Metal Stamping Market Worth $33.6 billion by 2027- Exclusive Report by Meticulous Research(R)on June 22, 2020 at 4:47 am
London, June 22, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- According to a new market research report titled "Aerospace and Defense Metal Stamping Market by Component (Housings and Enclosures, Assemblies, Brackets, ...
- Metal barriers, Trump gear: Crowd readies for Tulsa rallyon June 20, 2020 at 9:40 am
Rose Brown and other Trump supporters line up and camp on 4th Street in downtown Tulsa, Okla., ahead of President Donald Trump's Saturday's campaign rally, Friday, June 19, 2020.
- Honda’s 2020 CR-V Hybrid offers a mix of power and fuel efficiencyon June 18, 2020 at 9:00 pm
V Hybrid, the most powerful, fuel efficient, and sophisticated CR-V to date, is Honda’s first electrified compact crossover for the U.S. market, featuring the company’s innovative two-motor hybrid ...
via Bing News