Administrations dating back to the Nixon years have touted a "get off foreign oil" policy that, to date, has really gone no where. We're still on foreign oil. But now we might have a chance to get on foreign synthetic gasoline. A research collaboration in England has resulted in a synthetic, hydrogen-based fuel that would be more stable in price than oil and would produce no carbon emissions when burned in a combustion engine.
The fuel was developed by scientists from Cella Energy — a spin-out company from Rutherford Appleton Laboratory — University College London and Oxford University. It's based on a complex chemical compound called a hydride that contains hydrogen. Hydrides are used in batteries, such as nickel-metal batteries, to store energy, and have been looked at for storing hydrogen in fuel cell-powered electric cars.
The problem, according to Cella Energy, is that conventional means for containing hydrides are not great. According to the website:
Cella Energy has a found a low-cost way to trap the hydride compound inside a nano-porous polymer micro bead. They say:
The micro-beads make hydride more efficient as a fuel, they help filter out the damaging chemicals and protect the hydrides from oxygen and water, so that they don't react and can be handled in air. The final product looks like white tissue paper or a powder.
And because the micro-beads move as a fluid, they can be used in the following way:
“Early indications are that the micro-beads can be used in existing vehicles without engine modification,” said Cella Energy CEO Stephen Voller in this article on Gizmag.
This kind of development could really upend gasoline economies. I'm curious to see where this innovation goes.
Photo: Juice Images/Corbis