Creating fuel that doesn’t cause massive explosions has been on scientists to do list for over half a decade. Now, it seems the dream is closer to reality.
Conventional fuels used to power our vehicles, buses, airplanes or trucks may be fueling more than these means of transport. Upon collision or under excessive pressure it is the conventional fuels that can turn any vehicle into a fuel-laden bomb, claiming lives in the process.
To this end, researchers with the California Institute of Technology have been working relentlessly to diminish the potential of these deadly fireballs from forming. They recently announced that a new additive is the result of their over a decade work. This new fuel additive is based on a type of polymer that forms into a megasupramolecule.
Unlike conventional fuels, fuels enriched with the new fuel additive are blocked from forming the fine mist resulting when a crash occurs or the fuel is under too much pressure. The fine vapors typically created during impact is in fact the trigger of the deadly explosions.
Julie Kornfield, an experienced Professor of chemical engineering with the California Institute of Technology and lead researcher on the study, stated that among the sources of inspiration for this breakthrough, she would count the 9/11 attacks.
“Our dream was that if word got out to terrorists that fuel wouldn’t explode, maybe they wouldn’t be that motivated”,
Julie Kornfield is cited by the National Geographic magazine.
The intensive research and the a detailed description of the new fuel additive are described in a paper published in the U.S.-based Science journal.
Due to the type of polymer used in the new fuel additive, mist is prevented from forming. That is because the megasupramolecules are in fact long molecules created from a repetition of units. At the end of each megasupramolecule there are caps which have almost the same role as the master link would in a bicycle chain. As such, when the fuel enriched with the new additive is under pressure, the megasupramolcules break only to meet again and form droplets the size of a raindrop, thus not leaving any mist behind.
The greatest advantage of the new fuel additive is that it prevents explosions from happening. Moreover, it flows without forming clogs. So far, it has been tested for both fuel used in airplanes and diesel fuel. Upon testing, researchers found that it also reduced soot emissions by 12 percent. Considering that the Environmental Protection Agency is currently requiring automakers to take into consideration the reduction of soot emissions, this is another added benefit of the new fuel additive.
The additive won’t be made commercially available too soon. Further testing are needed and Julie Kornfield stated that the Pentagon is working with the team to test it with small helicopter engines.
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