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Nanoparticles increase biofuel performance

How to put more bang in your biofuels? Nanoparticles! A new study in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy shows that the addition of alumina nanoparticles can improve the performance and combustion of biodiesel, while producing fewer emissions.

Why add nanoparticles? The idea, says lead author R. B. Anand, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the National Institute of Technology in Tiruchirappalli, India, is that because of their high surface-to-volume ratio, the nanoparticles—which, in the study, had an average diameter of 51 billionths of a meter—have more reactive surfaces, allowing them to act as more efficient chemical catalysts, thus increasing fuel combustion. The presence of the particles also increases fuel–air mixing in the fuel, which leads to more complete burning.

In the study, Anand and co-author J. Sadhik Basha first used a mechanical agitator to create an emulsion consisting of jatropha biodiesel (a fuel derived from the crushed seeds of the jatropha plant), water, and a surfactant, then blended in different proportions of alumina nanoparticles. In addition to outperforming regular biofuel, the nanoparticle-spiked fuels produced significantly lower quantities of nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide gases, and created less smoke.

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. One obstacle to the application of this kind of nanotechnology is the high cost of nanoparticle production, says Anand—who also cautions that nanoparticles "should be used judiciously," because they tend to "entrain into human bodies."

The article, "Role of nano-additive blended biodiesel emulsion fuel on the working characteristics of a diesel engine," by R. B. Anand and J. Sadhik Basha, appears in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.

About the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy

The Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, published by the American Institute of Physics, is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal covering all areas of renewable and sustainable energy-related fields that apply to the physical science and engineering communities. Content is published online daily, collected into bimonthly issues (6 times a year). As an electronic-only, web-based journal with rapid publication time, JRSE is responsive to the many new developments expected in this field. The interdisciplinary approach of the publication ensures that the editors draw from researchers worldwide in a diverse range of fields.

About AIP

The American Institute of Physics is an organization of 10 physical sciences societies representing more than 135,000 scientists, engineers, and educators and is one of the largest publishers of scientific information in physics. AIP also delivers valuable resources and expertise in education and student services, science communication, government relations, career services for science and engineering professionals, statistical research, industrial outreach, and the history of physics and other sciences. Offering publishing solutions for scientific societies and organizations in science and engineering, AIP pursues innovation in electronic publishing of scholarly journals. AIP publishes 13 journals (, 2 magazines—including its flagship publication, Physics Today—and the AIP Conference Proceedings series. Scitation, AIP's online publishing platform, hosts 1.6 million articles from 190 scholarly journals, proceedings, and eBooks of learned society publishers. AIP also provides the international physical science community with UniPHY, the first literature-based social and professional networking site; it features pre-populated profiles of more than 300,000 scientists and enables collaboration among researchers worldwide.

Charles E. Blue | EurekAlert!
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