University Develops Ethanol Fuel Cell For Cars

With the world moving rapidly towards ditching petrol and diesel cars, the hunt for alternatives is intensifying – and ethanol could be part of the solution.

Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a new kind of ethanol fuel cell that could use alcohol to power a car. It would simply convert the alcohol into ethanol that can in turn be used to generate electricity, rather than heat, reports.

Unlike the battery technology electric cars use, which require the vehicle to be charged up before it can take to the road, this would start working as soon as the fuel is in, just as would happen with a petrol car. But it would avoid generating substantial quantities of fossil fuel emissions that cause climate change.

Previous attempts to develop ethanol-based fuel cells have foundered as the chemical reactions have been too slow, but the researchers found that the addition of fluorine helped the palladium-nitrogen-carbon catalysts to function with far greater speed and efficiency. Details of the new technology have been outlined in the journal Nature Energy.

The idea that an ethanol supplier could be the equivalent of one of today’s petrol producers may have seemed fanciful years ago, but now it seems this could be the future.

Associate professor at the university’s NanoScience Technology Centre and co-author of the study Yang Yang, said: “Our research enables direct ethanol fuel cells to become a new player to compete with hydrogen-fuel cells and batteries in various sustainable energy fields.”

Another benefit of ethanol fuel cells would be to prevent cars having to rely on lithium batteries, which may have significant geopolitical benefits amid concerns that China is dominating the supply and production of lithium batteries through its acquisition of mines producing the mineral all over the world.

This would ensure the rest of the world would not be held to ransom over lithium supplies and could use alternative vehicle energy sources.  

Maersk To Run First-Ever Methanol Fuelled Freight Ship In 2023

Denmark based logistics firm Maersk has pledged to launch a carbon-neutral ocean liner by 2023, seven years ahead of their schedule.

The vessel, which is set to run on either e-methanol or bio-methanol obtained from a sustainable methanol supplier, are part of the company’s goal to run an entire carbon-neutral fleet by the year 2050, according to their press release.

The initial pledge to move towards a wholly carbon neutral fleet was announced in 2018, and since then the industry has begun to push for a 60 per cent reduction by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Part of the reason this has been an issue is the particular types of fuels both the sea freight and aviation industry use.

As giant transport ships are very heavy, they require a lot of fuel, so many operators use heavy fuel oils, which billow high amounts of carbon dioxide, sulphur and other pollutants into the atmosphere.

Ensuring a sufficient supply of any replacement fuel has been the stopping point of many endeavours to clean up the freight industry in the past.

Even these new liners will also have the ability to run on very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) as well, in case enough biofuel is unavailable.

However, with rapid advances in sustainable biofuel technology, as well as the potential for hydrogen fuel cells and other carbon-neutral technologies being brought in, the shipping industry may become unrecognisable by the end of the decade.

New Biofuel Alternative To Diesel Developed

There is a growing focus on reducing emissions both in the UK and elsewhere around the world, with the transport sector widely considered to be one of the most polluting.

There is a growing focus on reducing emissions both in the UK and elsewhere around the world, with the transport sector widely considered to be one of the most polluting.

That means there is an opportunity to reduce emission levels if this sector decarbonises, and one of the ways to do that is to see a greater adoption of biofuels in place of traditional petrol and diesel.

GreenD+ is a new biofuel that can be used as an alternative to diesel and it’s one that has been developed by London-based company Green Biofuels, AZO Cleantech reported.

This new fuel is created from hydrotreated vegetable oil and it has a similar chemical structure to diesel, as well as offering the same performance, but without producing nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and CO2 emissions.

Using this fuel cuts CO2 emissions by up to 90 per cent, the news provider revealed, while particulate matter is 85 per cent lower when GreenD+ is used, and nitrogen oxide emissions drop by 30 per cent.

It can also be used in existing equipment and vehicles that typically use diesel fuel without the need for any upgrades. The company is planning to roll it out across the construction sector and for rail transport too.

John Cox is the rail division managing director of VolkerFitzpatrick, which has adopted GreenD+. He said it was a “hidden gem of a product”. “The ability to use a total drop replacement fuel without any capital expenditure or changes to any of our equipment was a significant reason for adopting GreenD+,” he asserted. 

Earlier this year, Biofuels International reported that companies working on developing new biofuels would be eligible to apply for funding under the government’s Clean Growth Fund.

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