Tag Archives: fuel

Fireworks for fuel?

Scientists are attempting to harness the power in fireworks for use as fuel according to a Jan. 18, 2017 news item on Nanowerk,

The world relies heavily on gasoline and other hydrocarbons to power its cars and trucks. In search of an alternative fuel type, some researchers are turning to the stuff of fireworks and explosives: metal powders. And now one team is reporting a method to produce a metal nanopowder fuel with high energy content that is stable in air and doesn’t go boom until ignited.

A Jan. 18, 2017 American Chemical Society (ACS) news release, which originated the news item, expands on the theme,

Hydrocarbon fuels are liquid at room temperature, are simple to store, and their energy can be used easily in cars and trucks. Metal powders, which can contain large amounts of energy, have long been used as a fuel in explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics. It might seem counterintuitive to develop them as a fuel for vehicles, but some researchers have proposed to do just that. A major challenge is that high-energy metal nanopowder fuels tend to be unstable and ignite on contact with air. Albert Epshteyn and colleagues wanted to find a way to harness and control them, producing a fuel with both high energy content and good air stability.

The researchers developed a method using an ultrasound-mediated chemical process to combine the metals titanium, aluminum and boron with a sprinkle of hydrogen in a mixed-metal nanopowder fuel. The resulting material was both more stable and had a higher energy content than the standard nano-aluminum fuels. With an energy density of at least 89 kilojoules/milliliter, which is significantly superior to hydrocarbons’ 33 kilojoules/milliliter, this new titanium-aluminum-boron nanopowder packs a big punch in a small package.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Optimization of a High Energy Ti-Al-B Nanopowder Fuel by Albert Epshteyn, Michael Raymond Weismiller, Zachary John Huba, Emily L. Maling, and Adam S. Chaimowitz. Energy Fuels, DOI: 10.1021/acs.energyfuels.6b02321 Publication Date (Web): December 30, 2016

Copyright © 2016 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

Making diesel cleaner

A Dec. 10, 2015 news item on Nanowerk announces a new method for producing diesel fuels (Note: A link has been removed),

Researchers from KU Leuven [Belgium] and Utrecht University [Netherlands] have discovered a new approach to the production of fuels (Nature, “Nanoscale intimacy in bifunctional catalysts for selective conversion of hydrocarbons”). Their new method can be used to produce much cleaner diesel. It can quickly be scaled up for industrial use. In 5 to 10 years, we may see the first cars driven by this new clean diesel.

A Dec. 10, 2015 KU Leuven press release, which originated the news item, provides more detail about the research,

The production of fuel involves the use of catalysts. These substances trigger the chemical reactions that convert raw material into fuel. In the case of diesel, small catalyst granules are added to the raw material to sufficiently change the molecules of the raw material to produce useable fuel.

Catalysts can have one or more chemical functions. The catalyst that was used for this particular study has two functions, represented by two different materials: a metal (platinum) and a solid-state acid. During the production process for diesel, the molecules bounce to and fro between the metal and the acid. Each time a molecule comes into contact with one of the materials, it changes a little bit. At the end of the process, the molecules are ready to be used for diesel fuel.

The assumption has always been that the metal and the solid-state acid in the catalyst should be as close together as possible. That would speed up the production process by helping the molecules bounce to and fro more quickly. Professor Johan Martens (KU Leuven) and Professor Krijn de Jong (Utrecht University) have now discovered that this assumption is incorrect. [emphasis mine] If the functions within a catalyst are nanometres apart, the process yields better molecules for cleaner fuel.

“Our results are the exact opposite of what we had expected. At first, we thought that the samples had been switched or that something was wrong with our analysis”, says Professor Martens. “We repeated the experiments three times, only to arrive at the same conclusion: the current theory is wrong. There has to be a minimum distance between the functions within a catalyst. This goes against what the industry has been doing for the past 50 years.”

The new technique can optimise quite a few molecules in diesel. Cars that are driven by this clean diesel would emit far fewer particulates and CO². The researchers believe that their method can be scaled up for industrial use with relative ease, so the new diesel could be used in cars in 5 to 10 years.

The new technique can be applied to petroleum-based fuels, but also to renewable carbon from biomass.

A fifty year old assumption has been found wrong. Interesting, non? In any event, here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Nanoscale intimacy in bifunctional catalysts for selective conversion of hydrocarbons by Jovana Zecevic, Gina Vanbutsele, Krijn P. de Jong, & Johan A. Martens. Nature 528, 245–248 (10 December 2015)  doi:10.1038/nature16173 Published online 09 December 2015

This paper is behind a paywall.

Nanotechnology-enabled paint coating to shave millions off British Airways fuel costs?

For most people from Vancouver (BC, Canada), Triple-O means a popular (they use the word legendary) sauce used on hamburgers at a local restaurant chain, The White Spot. There is another tripleO (one that will save much money for British Airways [BA]) according to the Jan. 9, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

British Airways is to extend a trial of an innovative paint coating designed to improve fuel efficiency in a move that could save the airline millions of pounds in fuel costs.

The tripleO coating bonds with the surface materials – such as paintwork, bare metal, leading edges and even rivets – to which it is being applied. It creates a perfectly smooth finish, forming a barrier to prevent dirt building up on the aircraft and improving aerodynamics.

It was applied to a British Airways Airbus A318 aircraft which operates exclusively on the London City to New York route. During the year long trial period, the aircraft used less fuel than a second Airbus A318, which did not have the coating.

The coating will now be applied to a Boeing 777-200, with data being collected during a further trial period. It is hoped that applying the coating to larger aircraft will result in an even greater fuel efficiency improvement, with the airline hoping to save in excess of £100,000 during the 777 trial.

As well as improving fuel efficiency, tripleO also improves the aircraft appearance, and leads to prolonged paint life. Further environmental benefits come from less frequent cleaning and painting.

I assume that tripleO is projecting that millions of pounds will be saved based on the first test. Why do they not give any numbers, e.g. amount saved on fuel costs over the period of the test?

I was able to get some more information on the company website although I found it a bit confusing. According to the company’s History page, it was founded in 2002,

Paul Booker and his wife Tania established ooops.net limited on June 11th 2002 and having moved into their brand new premises on October 1st 2002 commenced trading on October 15th 2002 as specialists in the repair, painting, maintenance and ‘detailing’ of all types of transportation, exterior and interior.

In 2007, after scouring the world our highly experienced and expert team found an innovative nano-technology paint sealant that was being used by the US Military and Government and the dynamic team at ooops! named it tripleO protection system and sought to distribute and apply this unique, proven and high performance coating technology product to the automotive market.

Yet this is claimed on the company’s Product page,

tripleO is over 30 years old

Our unique tripleO solution is proven in some of the most challenging applications, for some of the world’s most demanding organisations and industries.

At the turn of the millennium, tripleO was enhanced with nano-technology and has been proven by the U.S. Military to be so much more than an aircraft polish, protective coating or yacht varnish.

Maybe they licenced the product? In any event, they do boast these features (from the Product page),

  • Reduce ‘drag’ in the air, on the road or through the water; helping you reduce fuel consumption.
  • Remove and eliminate ‘debris build up’ on external surfaces – including contaminants from ice and dirt to sea water – again helping you reduce energy consumption.
  • Optimise your carbon footprint to meet your statutory environmental obligations.
  • Protect external and internal surfaces; increasing working life and return on your investment, while reducing cost of ownership.
  • Better clean and present exteriors and interiors; enhancing your livery, brand reputation and service levels.

Interestingly, they claim the product has neither silicon nor teflon but they don’t offer any details about it other than claim that it is  a nanotechnology-enabled paint coating.