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View Full Version : Run Your Car on Aluminium!

Tuckerfan
10-22-2005, 12:09 PM
What better excuse for drinking on driving could you have? (http://www.newscientist.com/channel/mech-tech/mg18825221.100) "Honest, officer, I was running low on aluminum, and needed to refill the car's tank, somehow!"So reckons Dave Beach, a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, who has come up with a plan to transform the way we fuel our engines. Chunks of metal such as iron, aluminium or boron are the thing, he believes. Turn them into powder with grains just nanometres across and the stuff becomes highly reactive. Ignite it, and it releases copious quantities of energy. With a modified engine and a tankful of metal, Beach calculates that an average saloon car could travel three times as far as the equivalent petrol-powered vehicle.Well, I'm game. I'd love to drop one of those engines into my Chrysler.

Jman
10-23-2005, 02:12 AM
What happens when your engine decides to eat itself? ;)

MEBuckner
10-23-2005, 02:33 AM
What happens when your engine decides to eat itself? ;)
Hey, car chases could be more like train chases in old Westerns, with people stoking the boilers with bits of the car itself when they start to run low on fuel.

Sunspace
10-23-2005, 04:57 AM
I wonder how energy-efficient this is, given that we have to refine the metal to start with. It sounds like the metal is an energy 'carrier', like hydrogen: we'd put energy into it to transform the ore into a fuel, and take energy out of it as we burn it.

So...
What is the energy-storage density of the metal, in J/kg? How much energy does it take to refine the metal fuel? What percentage of that energy is captured in the fuel?
When the metal is burned, how is the exhaust handled? If the engine yields a finely-distributed oxide powder that is discharged behind the vehicle, we would be essentially undoing the geophysical acts of concentration that created the source ore bodies of the metal in the first place. Far better to capture/cool the exhaust and return it to the fuel generation plant to be split apart again.

If the energy storage density of the metal fuel is sufficiently greater than that of gasoline/diesel/whatever, it might be feasible. But a whole fuelling system would have to be designed: engines, fuel formats, fuelling stations, transport infrastructure, waste handling...

10-23-2005, 06:37 AM
An interesting article Tuckerfan, thanks for sharing it with us.

I love the concept, but worry that we'll eventually make aluminum scarce.

RandomLetters
10-23-2005, 10:09 AM
I love the concept, but worry that we'll eventually make aluminum scarce.

Aluminum makes up 8% or so of the Earth's crust, so making it scarce would be a hard thing. And when you burn aluminum you get aluminum oxide, which is relatively easy to convert back to aluminum - though it takes more electrical energy than you get by burning the aluminum. The same is true when it comes to separating aluminum from the various ores it is found in the Earth, so as other have said, these is more a system of energy storage than a fuel source. Still, a buttload of nuclear powerplants powering aluminum plants might be useful to replace fossil fuels - no CO2 emission, for one thing.

Tuckerfan
10-23-2005, 11:09 AM
Sunspace, some of the answers to your questions can be found here. (http://www.eagle.ca/~gcowan/boron_blast.html) It's a more about boron powered cars, but the principles are the same.