Chemical engineers invent a revolutionary fuel that won’t catch fire


RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Can gas be fireproof? It may well now. Chemical engineers from the College of California-Riverside have designed a novel gas that solely ignites when making use of {an electrical} present. The first benefit of this modern gas is its security — it doesn’t react to open flames, making it resistant to unintended fires throughout storage or transportation.

“The gas we’re usually utilizing isn’t very secure. It evaporates and will ignite, and it’s troublesome to cease that,” says examine co-author Yujie Wang, a UCR chemical engineering doctoral scholar, in a university release. “It’s a lot simpler to regulate the flammability of our fuel and cease it from burning once we take away voltage.”

The examine authors clarify the creation course of for this gas. Researchers additionally filed a patent detailing additional technical specifics.

Reprinted with permission from the American Chemical Society.
Reprinted with permission from the American Chemical Society. (credit score: American Chemical Society)

What makes gasoline so flammable?

When a fuel burns, it’s not the liquid however the risky gas molecules above it that catch fireplace upon mixing with oxygen and flame.

“Should you throw a match right into a pool of gasoline on the bottom, it’s the vapor of the gasoline that’s burning. You’ll be able to odor that vapor and also you immediately understand it’s risky,” says examine first creator Prithwish Biswas, a UCR chemical engineering doctoral scholar. “Should you can management the vapor, you possibly can management whether or not the gas burns.”

On the coronary heart of this innovation is an ionic liquid, which is actually a liquified salt.

“It’s much like the salt we use to taste meals, which is sodium chloride,” notes Wang. “The one we used for this challenge has a decrease melting level than desk salt, low vapor strain, and is natural.”

Diesel fuel pump at gas station
Picture by Engin Akyurt on


To check their creation, scientists used a daily cigarette lighter on the liquid. It didn’t ignite. Nevertheless, once they utilized an electric current after which used the lighter, the gas ignited, but it surely stopped burning as soon as the present was eliminated.

“As soon as we shut off the present, the flame was gone, and we have been capable of repeat that course of time and again — making use of voltage, seeing smoke, lighting the smoke so it burned, then turning it off,” explains Wang. “We have been excited to discover a system we may begin and cease in a short time.”

The extra voltage utilized, the bigger and extra energetic the flame turned, which may supply exact management in engine systems.

“You’ll be able to measure the combustion on this approach, and reducing the voltage works like a lifeless man change — a security function that routinely shuts down a machine if the operator turns into incapacitated,” says examine corresponding creator Michael Zachariah, a distinguished professor of chemical engineering at UCR.

In idea, this ionic liquid gas might be utilized in any automobile. Nonetheless, there are challenges to deal with earlier than it may be delivered to market, together with engine compatibility and effectivity evaluations. One intriguing side is the gas’s skill to mix with conventional fuels whereas retaining its non-flammable properties, although the precise combine ratio stays a topic of additional analysis.

Whereas excited concerning the security advantages of their invention, Zachariah identified potential hurdles in commercializing the product, primarily as a result of its present increased price.

“This is able to positively be costlier than the best way they at the moment manufacture fuels. These compounds aren’t usually produced in bulk, but when they have been, the fee would go down,” says Zachariah. “How aggressive wouldn’t it be? I don’t know. But when security is essential, that’s a serious side of this. You make one thing secure, then there’s a profit that goes past the underside line.”

The examine is revealed within the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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