Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Spontaneous ignition discovery has ORNL researcher fired up

20.04.2005


Zhiyu Hu believes it is possible to match nature’s highly efficient method to convert chemicals into thermal energy at room temperature, and he has data and a published paper to support his theory.



In a paper scheduled to appear in the May 18 print issue of the American Chemical Society’s Energy & Fuels, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Hu describes a novel method to achieve spontaneous ignition and sustained combustion at room temperature. He achieves this "nano-catalytic reaction" with nothing but nanometer-sized particles of platinum stuck to fibers of glass wool in a small jar with methanol and air – with no source of external ignition.

Although this began as little more than a curiosity, Hu quickly realized that the implications could be significant because of the potential gains in energy conversion and utilization. Hu now cites possibilities in the area of distributed power generation and perhaps military and homeland defense.


While additional research needs to be performed to understand the phenomena, Hu notes that natural organisms such as microbes, plants and animals obtain energy from oxidation of the same organic chemicals at their physiological, or body, temperatures. Many of these biological reactions also use metals as part of their enzyme catalysts. Still, this is a surprising result in the field of metal catalysis.

"Since the caveman days, we have burned things to utilize their energy, and the high temperatures and the entire process have created a lot of problems that we’re then forced to deal with," said Hu, a physicist in the Life Sciences Division of the Department of Energy’s ORNL.

Citing the wisdom of one of the all-time great scientists, Hu noted that Albert Einstein once said, "Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them." So, according to Hu, the best way to solve the energy crisis is to replace our existing fuel consuming method with one that has much higher efficiency and less environmental impact.

Indeed, there is room for efficiency improvement, Hu said, noting that an internal combustion engine is only about 21 percent efficient. The process also creates environmental concerns because of nitrogen oxide emissions that form because of the high combustion temperatures. Even an advanced fuel cell is only about 50 percent efficient, and it must be operated at a temperature that is much higher than our body or room temperature, which requires costly components able to withstand harsh conditions.

"What we have is the possibility of retrieving energy at a lower temperature with greater efficiency and lower environmental effects," Hu said.

The method outlined in the paper "Nano-catalytic spontaneous ignition and self-supporting room-temperature combustion," co-written by ORNL’s Vassil Boiadjiev and Thomas Thundat, was discovered unintentionally. Hu was actually conducting another experiment with platinum particles, methanol and cotton swabs when he noticed the mixture produced smoke. He consulted with Thundat and others who encouraged him to figure out what was happening.

"This wasn’t research that was funded, so I worked evenings and weekends to try to understand why and how this happened," Hu said. He replicated the discovery numerous times under different conditions and noticed that the reactions can reach high temperatures of greater than 600 degrees Celsius and low temperatures of just a few tenths of a degree above room temperature.

Hu also learned that he can control the reaction by varying the fuel-air mixture, and he discovered that the process can be dramatically changed by reducing the particle size and changing the particle’s morphology, or shape.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.

Ron Walli | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ornl.gov

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Energy hybrid: Battery meets super capacitor
01.12.2016 | Technische Universität Graz

nachricht Tailor-Made Membranes for the Environment
30.11.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>