Iron as a Fuel?

POSTED ON August 8, 2022 IN NEWS

Iron as a Fuel?

Here is a new unlikely fuel: Iron.

Chemists are seriously beginning to think about using metals powders as a source of energy.

Iron, when burned in air, will change into Iron Oxide. This is an exothermic process, which releases further heat that can be used for doing some work.

That’s technically the same process as heating hydrogen. The energy density of Iron is lower than that of hydrogen or fossil fuel, but it is still enough to boil water, for example.

As an aside, we don’t notice the heat when iron rusts (which is chemically nothing but iron changing into iron oxide) because rusting is a very slow process.

This concept has been proved at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. A student-led metal fuel research group called ‘Solid’ has set up an iron burner called MP100 at a brewery.

The 15-meter installation generates 100 kilowatts — about the same power as a car.

At the brewery, this is used to generate steam, which in turn mashes potatoes or grapes or whatever it is that they are brewing.

They are planning on building a larger generator that can produce 200 kilowatts which will be used to power a ship.

The idea is attractive because it is simpler to extract iron from iron oxide using renewable electricity. These can therefore be recycled infinitely (in theory).

Plus, Iron — or aluminum — for that matter, is so much easier to transport than hydrogen.

You could also use them in special fuel cells that use metals as fuel.

Different versions of this technology already exist.

It’s a very novel idea, and while we probably won’t be transporting iron powders inside our car engines any time soon, there could be niche applications where this might work.


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