Metal Powder as the Fuel of the Future

Hydro-electricity? Fusion? Thermal Depolarization? Do we have any other real alternatives? Including utility scale energy storage.

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Mark
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Metal Powder as the Fuel of the Future

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McGill Putting Its Bets on Metal Powder as the Fuel of the Future:
http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_a ... fuel_futur

While automakers such as Toyota, Tesla, Ford, Honda and General Motors are putting their bets on hydrogen and electricity to power future mobility, Canada’s McGill University thinks metal could be the key to a clean, low-carbon future. For the last 20 years, researchers at McGill have been studying how metal powders, such as iron, could be used as a fossil-fuel alternative that produces zero carbon emissions. When burned, these powders are capable of producing more energy than an equivalent volume of gasoline. In lieu of carbon dioxide, the process releases only iron oxide, or rust, which is environmentally benign. What’s more, the exhaust can be collected and recycled back into iron using renewable energy sources, creating a sustainable, closed loop system.

To gain further insight into how the metals burn, researchers successfully launched an experiment into space on April 7. On the ground, the metal powders settle too quickly and the hot combustion products rise and disrupt the experiments, but the state of weightlessness in space provided the ideal conditions to study metal’s reaction. “We have to expand our horizons, our vision of what a fuel is, and what are the possibilities. And when we look big enough, I think we find that metals are going to be the solution,” said researcher Jeffrey Bergthorson. “I want a renewable, energy-rich future and not an energy-poor future.”

Bergthorson and fellow researcher Andrew Higgins envision ships and trains to be the first to utilize powdered metal fuel, with smaller vehicles, such as cars, to follow. Would the new fuel mean the end of the highly controversial Alberta tar sands? The answer is unclear, but Bergthorson believes that the widespread use of the new fuel could give the Canadian economy a major boost — the country is rich in metals, which could prove to be a significant advantage.

While McGill’s experiment marks an important step forward for the future of metal fuel, researchers admit that the road to large-scale adoption will be a long one. More work needs to be done to advance the technology, but a lack of resources — namely the availability of researchers — presents a significant obstacle. “To put it all together into a real technology, we’re going to need a lot of other people to help us on this,” said Higgins. “We hope people will continue to collaborate with us to keep advancing the technology.”
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Post by Little John »

Where does the metal powder come from? How much energy is used to get it to a powdered state ready to be used as a fuel? Where does that energy come from?

Nowhere in that article are any of these fundamental question even addressed, never mind answered.

More techno-porn fantasy. You're quite partial to it aren't you Mark.
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PS_RalphW
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Post by PS_RalphW »

Boron was considered as a jet fuel back in the 1950s Apart from the cost low low efficiency of turning metal to oxide and back again, the basic flaw is that the waste product - the oxide, is a solid and is heavier and a bigger volume than the fuel. Any engine powered this way would choke up almost instantly.
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Mark
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Post by Mark »

Little John wrote:More techno-porn fantasy. You're quite partial to it aren't you Mark.
Yes, guilty as charged.... :)

However, if we look back 50 years, it was just coal and maybe some nuclear. Now we can use a whole mix of technologies to generate - we didn't envisage algae or geothermal or landfill gas working.... why not others ?

I'm not saying that your questions aren't valid.
I'd just prefer to answer them rather than totally dismissing a potential technology....

& of course, we should start by using less of everything....
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adam2
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Post by adam2 »

I cant foresee metal as a fuel ever being particularly efficient, not just due to the direct losses but also the fact that it is more expensive and time consuming to handle if compared to liquid fuel or electricity.
Consider the practical problems in distributing powdered iron, keeping it away from air at all times, filling vehicles with a known and metered volume, again in the absence of air, and also of emptying the vehicle of the iron oxide and collecting this for recycling.
All of this would seem to involve considerable cost and complication compared to plugging in an electric cable or inserting a fuel hose for liquid fuel.

The technology is arguably more akin to a primary battery that is discarded and hopefully recycled after use rather than being recharged.

The metal used needs to be reasonably reactive but not so reactive as to be dangerous, of limited toxicity and reasonably cheap since some will be lost.

Iron, zinc, and aluminium are possibilities.

BTW, iron powder is ALREADY used as a fuel for certain specialist applications. For a bonus point, does anyone know for what purpose.
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PS_RalphW
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Post by PS_RalphW »

fireworks?
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adam2
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Post by adam2 »

PS_RalphW wrote:fireworks?
Yes, but that was not the application that I was thinking of, so there must be at least 2 applications.
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PS_RalphW
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Post by PS_RalphW »

Good old yahoo. I had forgotten MREs. Self heating ready meals.
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Post by adam2 »

PS_RalphW wrote:Good old yahoo. I had forgotten MREs. Self heating ready meals.
AFAIK the standard MREs are not self heating, certainly the ones I have are not self heating.
A "flameless ration heater" is available to use with MREs or other rations but I don't think that it uses iron. I think that it uses quicklime and water to produce the heat.
The water is not included but is added at the point of use thereby saving transport weight. The water does not contact the food therefore dirty water presents no risk, even urine or seawater can be used.

Other ration heaters or not flameless, they work by combustion.
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Post by emordnilap »

adam2 wrote:
PS_RalphW wrote:fireworks?
Yes, but that was not the application that I was thinking of, so there must be at least 2 applications.
OK, without searching, seeing as much technology comes via the military, I'll guess it has something to do with destruction of life and property.

??
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Post by BritDownUnder »

Most iron comes from reduction of iron oxides mined by coking coal so the CO2 emissions have just been moved. Could be easier to sequester them if that gets some people interested. Unless meteoritic iron can be found in sufficient quantities along with elemental oxygen.

Iron oxide and aluminium is used in thermite welding I think.
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adam2
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Post by adam2 »

I was thinking of chemical handwarmers, a most useful source of heat in emergencies. A common type consists of very fine iron powder in a sealed plastic pouch.
They are activated by piercing or removing a seal so as to admit air which oxidises the iron and produces heat.

Thermit welding does indeed use a mixture of iron oxide and aluminium powder, though the aluminium is the fuel and not the iron which is already oxidised. The reaction produces aluminium oxide as waste and molten steel which is used for welding rails.
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Post by fuzzy »

You can just see the google self driven thermite powered tesla, controlled by windows 837, expertly overtaking my bicycle...what could go wrong??
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