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Spiking biofuel with nanoparticles found to increase performance

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April 10, 2011

Microscopic image of the biodiesel emulsion fuel created by researchers

Microscopic image of the biodiesel emulsion fuel created by researchers

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Nanoparticles have added yet another string to their microscopic bows with a new study showing that the addition of alumina nanoparticles can improve the performance and combustion of biodiesel, while producing fewer emissions. In the study, a team at India's National Institute of Technology in Tiruchirappalli used nanoparticles with an average diameter of 51 billionths of a meter. The high surface-to-volume ratio of the nanoparticles means they have more reactive surfaces, which allows them to act as more efficient chemical catalysts and results in increased fuel combustion.

Study lead author R. B. Anand and co-author J. Sadhik Basha used a mechanical agitator to create an emulsion consisting of jatropha biodiesel – a biofuel derived from the crushed seeds of the jatropha plant –, water, and a surfactant, to which they blended in different proportions of alumina nanoparticles. The nanoparticle-spiked fuels were not only found to outperform regular biofuel, but they also produced significantly lower quantities of nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide gases, and created less smoke as the presence of the particles increased fuel-air mixing in the fuel, leading to more complete burning.

TEM image of alumina nanoparticles

The researchers are now testing other types of nanoparticles, including hollow carbon nanotubes, and investigating the effects of nano-additives to engine lubrication and cooling systems. Despite the positive results of the study, the researchers say the high cost of nanoparticle production and the risk of nanoparticles entering the human body are obstacles that must be overcome before the technology can be adopted on a wider scale.

The study by the National Institute of Technology researchers entitled, "Role of nano-additive biodiesel emulsion fuel on the working characteristics of a diesel engine," appears in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
4 Comments

When "aluminum powder" is added to anything, the result will be "better" combustion. No secret.

Muraculous
11th April, 2011 @ 09:07 am PDT

Great, why don't they just add lead nanoparticals. At least we already know what that does to kids!

Denis Klanac
11th April, 2011 @ 08:39 pm PDT

As muraculous pointed out aluminium (oxide) is a principle ingredient of any incediary device it burns fast and hot - maybe they could try nano gun power, or a bit of nitro glycerin?

Come on guys - high school chemistry!

Aluminium also has proven links to alzheimers, if this is the way forward maybe we should re-introduce lead as Dens suggests!

Hmm_OK
13th April, 2011 @ 10:12 pm PDT

Oh crap, the more we learn about all that we do or have done to expose ourselves to different substances, it's a wonder we continue to live normal lives! I do agree that we should be careful when science produces some new material that would not normally be produced in nature but come on guys, live a little instead of dying nano-mentally with the constant stream of fearmongering!

Will, the tink
16th December, 2011 @ 06:34 pm PST
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