New White Diesel Fuel Can Save Energy, Reduce Emissions

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - One thing we can say for sure: people are not likely to give up the convenience, freedom and utility offered by motorized transportation as long as there are options available. Given that our current fleet of gasoline and diesel powered cars and trucks are emitting huge amounts of climate-wrecking carbon dioxide, it’s clear that things have got to change. With all the options on the table: hybrids, electric, hydrogen, compressed air, and a myriad of alternative fuels, it’s anyone’s guess how things will look, even a few years from now, never mind a couple of decades down the road.

Ultimately, if we are going to stick around, we’ll be driving cleaner cars—the cleaner the better, and the sooner the better. What if we could drive a car that used today’s technology, only powered by burning water? That would certainly be very clean—no carbon, no methane, no particulates, sulfur or nitrogen. Of course, we know that water doesn’t burn, but diesel fuel does. And researchers have known for years that a small amount of water can be added to diesel fuel to extend fuel economy while also burning cooler and cleaner. Generally speaking, experiments have found reductions as high as 90% in particulate matter as well as a 37% decrease in NOx.

This can be accomplished with a water-fuel emulsion achieved by blending the two liquids together as if making a milkshake. Researchers in New Zealand found that a mixture containing 12-15% water worked best.  The problem with this is, like with a milkshake, that if you let it sit for a while the two liquids will begin to separate at which point the engine will stall. So the challenge has been to find a way to stabilize the emulsion.

Now, a British company called SulNOx Fuel Fusions claims to have found a way utilizing nanotechnology to create fuel-water emulsion that they call “white diesel.” According to a company press release this emulsion improves fuel economy and reduces emissions “by improving atomization of the fuel and lowering engine temperatures. “

The presence of water in the emulsion has the effect of “breaking down the fuel particles [which] increases their surface area which helps the fuel to burn more completely and efficiently.”

The disclosure acknowledges the fact that these emulsions and their benefits are not new.  “The benefits of adding water to diesel fuel has been known about since the early 1900s, but the problem has been “stratification” of the emulsion and the excessive cost to the consumer,” said Stephen Bamford, a Director of SulNOx.

The company has developed a new mixing process that smashes the fuel together under high pressure to alter the two components at a nano, or quantum level. They then add an additive into the mix which helps to further stabilize the emulsion, which can then be burned just like regular fuel in any engine that burns hydrocarbon based fuel.

The company plans to conduct the first public test of this new technology at the Brooklands Museum in Weybridge Surrey, in mid-September where they will demonstrate the potential benefits of fuel emulsions on a 1959 Route Master bus.

They plan to first run the bus on regular diesel, taking a series of emission measurements before switching over to white diesel and repeating the test.

Their expectations are that NOx could be cut by between 50 - 60 per cent and particulates by more than 90 per cent. 

The company has commissioned the global engineering, environmental and strategic consulting firm Ricardo to carry out an extensive testing of the new emulsions and their potential benefits.

A team of researchers at MIT found that since the presence of particulates, along with ground level ozone, poses a major health risk, the economics of taking action to reduce these levels will be more than offset by the avoidance of medical expenses.

While we will eventually need to go beyond white diesel to propulsion systems that are truly clean and emit no greenhouse gases, this development could be an important intermediate step on the journey since it impacts the many diesel engines that are primarily used in trucks and heavy equipment, as well as ships (which burn bunker fuel, a heavier version of diesel), can all potentially  incorporate this new fuel without modification.

 

[Image credit: Rick: Flickr Creative Commons]