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Nanotechnology could slash greenhouse gas emissions

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

According to a UK company, SulNOx Fuel Fusions, the use of nanotechnology to create stable fuel emulsions could slash the emissions of greenhouse gases and cancerous particulate matter.

The company claims that white diesel, a mixture of fuel and water, cuts nitrogen oxide emissions and significantly reduces particulate matter (PM) by improving atomisation of the fuel and lowering engine temperatures.

Breaking down the fuel particles increases their surface area, which helps the fuel to burn more completely and efficiently. More efficient burning reduces the engine temperature, which helps to reduce the formation of nitrogen oxide in the engine, which is emitted through the exhaust.

The company say that fuel emulsions are not a new technology: “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”, commented Stephen Bamford, a Director of SulNOx.

“The problem is water and fuel don’t mix. Over a relatively short period of time these two components separate and as every engineer knows, putting pure water into a combustion engine has catastrophic results”.

SulNOx claims to have overcome this issue by developing a new mixing process that smashes the fuel together, repeatedly at great speed and under high pressure to alter the mixture at a nano, or quantum level.

An additive is then injected into the mix which helps to further stabilise the emulsion, that can then be burnt just like regular fuel in any engine that burns hydrocarbon based fuel.

The company will hold the first public test of this new technology next week at the Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, Surrey, where they will demonstrate the potential benefits of fuel emulsions on a 1959 Route Master bus.

The test will involve the bus’ engine initially running on regular diesel, while a series of measurements are taken, PM, NOx and engine temperature. The fuel supply will then be switched to white diesel, which will have been mixed under laboratory conditions at the SulNOx testing centre and the tests repeated.

Early indications suggest that NOx could be cut by between 50 – 60% and PM more than 90%.

To validate their initial test results the company has commissioned Ricardo, a global engineering environmental and strategic consultancy, and is in talks with Cambridge University, to carry out an extensive independent testing programme into the new emulsions and their potential benefits.

The company is to target the marine sector, which has been dubbed the world’s worst polluters by environmentalists, because the biggest 16 ships, produce as much pollution as all the cars in the world put together.

Experts say that the world’s super ships produce this amount of pollution because of their size and the type of fuel that they burn. Bunker fuels used by ships contain approximately 4% sulfur, 45000 times more than is allowed in car fuel in the EU.

This means that these ships can emit as much as 5000 tpy of sulfur, the equivalent of 50 million cars. Emulsified fuel could potentially cut this, but will require further testing and development before these results can be confirmed.

Adapted from a press release by Emma McAleavey.

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