Cynics may suspect a well-timed bid for a headline, but this story just happened to turn up at phys.org this week. There are sure to be snags – aren’t there?
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 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.
Full report with more tech info: Study points to metal powders as potential replacement for fossil fuels