SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Fuel

177

Fire whirls are powerful, spinning disasters for people and surroundings when they occur in large urban and wildland fires. Whereas fire whirls have been studied for fire-safety applications, previous research has yet to harness their potential burning efficiency for enhanced combustion. This article presents laboratory studies of fire whirls initiated as pool fires, but where the fuel sits on a water surface, suggesting the idea of exploiting the high efficiency of fire whirls for oil-spill remediation. We show the transition from a pool fire, to a fire whirl, and then to a previously unobserved state, a “blue whirl.” A blue whirl is smaller, very stable, and burns completely blue as a hydrocarbon flame, indicating soot-free burning. The combination of fast mixing, intense swirl, and the water-surface boundary creates the conditions leading to nearly soot-free combustion. With the worldwide need to reduce emissions from both wanted and unwanted combustion, discovery of this state points to possible new pathways for reduced-emission combustion and fuel-spill cleanup. Because current methods to generate a stable vortex are difficult, we also propose that the blue whirl may serve as a research platform for fundamental studies of vortices and vortex breakdown in fluid mechanics.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Hydrogen, Tornado, Fire, Combustion, Vortices, Fuel, Flame

96

Here we see why humans unwittingly build fires that look the same: edifices of fuel, as tall as they are wide. The pile of fuel is permeable, air invades it by natural convection and drives the combustion. I show that the hottest pile of burning fuel occurs when the height of the pile is roughly the same as its base diameter. Future studies may address the shape effect of wind, material type, and packing. Key is why humans of all eras have been relying on this design of fire “unwittingly”. The reason is that the heat flow from fire facilitates the movement and spreading of human mass on the globe.

Concepts: Human, Nitrogen, Heat, Human height, Heat transfer, Fire, Combustion, Fuel

59

Coal, as one of the most economic and abundant energy sources, remains the leading fuel for producing electricity worldwide. Yet, burning coal produces more global warming CO2 relative to all other fossil fuels, and it is a major contributor to atmospheric particulate matter known to have a deleterious respiratory and cardiovascular impact in humans, especially in China and India. Here we have discovered that burning coal also produces large quantities of otherwise rare Magnéli phases (Ti x O2x-1 with 4 ≤ x ≤ 9) from TiO2 minerals naturally present in coal. This provides a new tracer for tracking solid-state emissions worldwide from industrial coal-burning. In its first toxicity testing, we have also shown that nanoscale Magnéli phases have potential toxicity pathways that are not photoactive like TiO2 phases, but instead seem to be biologically active without photostimulation. In the future, these phases should be thoroughly tested for their toxicity in the human lung.Solid-state emissions from coal burning remain an environmental concern. Here, the authors have found that TiO2 minerals present in coal are converted into titanium suboxides during burning, and initial biotoxicity screening suggests that further testing is needed to look into human lung consequences.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Carbon, Natural gas, Methane, Fossil fuel, Coal, Global warming, Fuel

44

Decarbonizing the transportation sector is critical to achieving global climate change mitigation. Although biofuels will play an important role in conventional gasoline and diesel applications, bioderived solutions are particularly important in jet fuels and lubricants, for which no other viable renewable alternatives exist. Producing compounds for jet fuel and lubricant base oil applications often requires upgrading fermentation products, such as alcohols and ketones, to reach the appropriate molecular-weight range. Ketones possess both electrophilic and nucleophilic functionality, which allows them to be used as building blocks similar to alkenes and aromatics in a petroleum refining complex. Here, we develop a method for selectively upgrading biomass-derived alkyl methyl ketones with >95% yields into trimer condensates, which can then be hydrodeoxygenated in near-quantitative yields to give a new class of cycloalkane compounds. The basic chemistry developed here can be tailored for aviation fuels as well as lubricants by changing the production strategy. We also demonstrate that a sugarcane biorefinery could use natural synergies between various routes to produce a mixture of lubricant base oils and jet fuels that achieve net life-cycle greenhouse gas savings of up to 80%.

Concepts: Petroleum, Climate change, Hydrocarbon, Alkane, Coal, Lubricant, Internal combustion engine, Fuel

40

Propane (C3H8) is a volatile hydrocarbon with highly favourable physicochemical properties as a fuel, in addition to existing global markets and infrastructure for storage, distribution and utilization in a wide range of applications. Consequently, propane is an attractive target product in research aimed at developing new renewable alternatives to complement currently used petroleum-derived fuels. This study focuses on the construction and evaluation of alternative microbial biosynthetic pathways for the production of renewable propane. The new pathways utilize CoA intermediates that are derived from clostridial-like fermentative butanol pathways and are therefore distinct from the first microbial propane pathways recently engineered in Escherichia coli.

Concepts: Gasoline, Petroleum, Escherichia coli, Hydrocarbon, Natural gas, Combustion, Fuel, Propane

38

Exposure to air pollution resulting from fossil fuel combustion has been linked to multiple short-term and long term health effects. In a previous study, exposure of lung epithelial cells to engine exhaust from heavy fuel oil (HFO) and diesel fuel (DF), two of the main fuels used in marine engines, led to an increased regulation of several pathways associated with adverse cellular effects, including pro-inflammatory pathways. In addition, DF exhaust exposure was shown to have a wider response on multiple cellular regulatory levels compared to HFO emissions, suggesting a potentially higher toxicity of DF emissions over HFO. In order to further understand these effects, as well as to validate these findings in another cell line, we investigated macrophages under the same conditions as a more inflammation-relevant model. An air-liquid interface aerosol exposure system was used to provide a more biologically relevant exposure system compared to submerged experiments, with cells exposed to either the complete aerosol (particle and gas phase), or the gas phase only (with particles filtered out). Data from cytotoxicity assays were integrated with metabolomics and proteomics analyses, including stable isotope-assisted metabolomics, in order to uncover pathways affected by combustion aerosol exposure in macrophages. Through this approach, we determined differing phenotypic effects associated with the different components of aerosol. The particle phase of diluted combustion aerosols was found to induce increased cell death in macrophages, while the gas phase was found more to affect the metabolic profile. In particular, a higher cytotoxicity of DF aerosol emission was observed in relation to the HFO aerosol. Furthermore, macrophage exposure to the gas phase of HFO leads to an induction of a pro-inflammatory metabolic and proteomic phenotype. These results validate the effects found in lung epithelial cells, confirming the role of inflammation and cellular stress in the response to combustion aerosols.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Petroleum, Proteomics, Fossil fuel, Internal combustion engine, Fuel, Diesel fuel, Fuel oil

28

Drawing from a series of field measurement activities including the Alternative Aviation Fuels Experiments (AAFEX1 and AAFEX2), we present experimental measurements of particle number, size, and composition-resolved mass that describe the physical and chemical evolution of aircraft exhaust plumes on the time scale of 5 sec to 2-3 min. As the plume ages, the particle number emission index initially increases by a factor of 10-50, due to gas-to-particle formation of a nucleation/growth mode, and then begins to fall with increased aging. Increasing the fuel sulfur content causes the initial increase to occur more rapidly. The contribution of the nucleation/growth mode to the overall particle number density is most pronounced at idle power and decreases with increasing engine power. Increasing fuel sulfur content - but not fuel aromatic content - causes the nucleation/growth mode to dominate the particle number emissions to higher powers than for a fuel with “normal” sulfur and aromatic content. Particle size measurements indicate that the observed particle number emissions trends are due to continuing gas-to-particle conversion and coagulation growth of the nucleation/growth mode particles, processes which simultaneously increase particle mass and reduce particle number density. Measurements of nucleation/growth mode mass are consistent with the interpretation of particle number and size data and suggest that engine exit plane measurements may underestimate the total particle mass by much as a factor of between 5 and 10.

Concepts: Particle physics, Experiment, Physical quantities, Particle, Fuel, Plume, Ultra-low sulfur diesel, Number density

28

We examined the impact of maternal use of different household cooking fuels in India on low birth weight (LBW<2500g), and neonatal mortality (death within 28 days of birth). Using cross-sectional data from India's National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), we separately analyzed the prevalence of these two outcomes in households utilizing three types of high-pollution fuels for cooking - biomass, coal, and kerosene - using low-pollution fuels (gas and biogas) as the comparison "control" group. Taking socioeconomic and child-specific factors into account, we employed logistic regression to examine the impact of fuel use on fetal and infant health. The results indicate that household use of high-pollution fuels is significantly associated with increased odds of LBW and neonatal death. Compared to households using cleaner fuels (in which the mean birth weight is 2901g), the primary use of coal, kerosene, and biomass fuels is associated with significant decreases in mean birth weight (of -110g for coal, -107g for kerosene, and -78g for biomass). Kerosene and biomass fuel use are also associated with increased risk of LBW (p<0.05). Results suggest that increased risk of neonatal death is strongly associated with household use of coal (OR 18.54; 95% CI: 6.31-54.45), and perhaps with kerosene (OR 2.30; 95% CI: 0.95-5.55). Biomass is associated with increased risk of neonatal death among infants born to women with no more than primary education (OR 7.56; 95% CI: 2.40-23.80). These results are consistent with a growing literature showing health impacts of household air pollution from these fuels.

Concepts: Fetus, Demography, Petroleum, Infant mortality, Pediatrics, Biofuel, Fuel, Fuels

27

Use of green propellants is a trend for future space propulsion. Hypergolic ionic liquid propellants, which are environmentally-benign while exhibiting energetic performances comparable to hydrazine, have shown great potential to meet the requirements of developing nontoxic high-performance propellant formulations for space propulsion applications. This Concept article presents a review of recent advances in the field of ionic liquid propellants.

Concepts: Energy, Hydrogen peroxide, Force, Ionic liquid, Rocket, Fuel, Propellant, Specific impulse

27

Natural gas is seen by many as the future of American energy: a fuel that can provide energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the process. However, there has also been confusion about the climate implications of increased use of natural gas for electric power and transportation. We propose and illustrate the use of technology warming potentials as a robust and transparent way to compare the cumulative radiative forcing created by alternative technologies fueled by natural gas and oil or coal by using the best available estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from each fuel cycle (i.e., production, transportation and use). We find that a shift to compressed natural gas vehicles from gasoline or diesel vehicles leads to greater radiative forcing of the climate for 80 or 280 yr, respectively, before beginning to produce benefits. Compressed natural gas vehicles could produce climate benefits on all time frames if the well-to-wheels CH(4) leakage were capped at a level 45-70% below current estimates. By contrast, using natural gas instead of coal for electric power plants can reduce radiative forcing immediately, and reducing CH(4) losses from the production and transportation of natural gas would produce even greater benefits. There is a need for the natural gas industry and science community to help obtain better emissions data and for increased efforts to reduce methane leakage in order to minimize the climate footprint of natural gas.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Petroleum, Natural gas, Methane, Coal, Greenhouse gas, Fuel, Compressed natural gas