Nanoparticles increase biofuel performance

April 8, 2011

How to put more bang in your biofuels? Nanoparticles! A new study in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy shows that the addition of alumina nanoparticles can improve the performance and combustion of biodiesel, while producing fewer emissions.

Why add ? The idea, says lead author R. B. Anand, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the National Institute of Technology in Tiruchirappalli, India, is that because of their high surface-to-volume ratio, the nanoparticles—which, in the study, had an average diameter of 51 billionths of a meter—have more reactive surfaces, allowing them to act as more efficient chemical catalysts, thus increasing fuel . The presence of the particles also increases fuel–air mixing in the fuel, which leads to more complete burning.

In the study, Anand and co-author J. Sadhik Basha first used a mechanical agitator to create an emulsion consisting of jatropha (a fuel derived from the crushed seeds of the jatropha plant), water, and a surfactant, then blended in different proportions of alumina nanoparticles. In addition to outperforming regular biofuel, the nanoparticle-spiked fuels produced significantly lower quantities of nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide gases, and created less smoke.

The researchers are now testing other types of nanoparticles, including hollow carbon nanotubes, and investigating the effects of nano-additives to engine lubrication and cooling systems. One obstacle to the application of this kind of nanotechnology is the high cost of nanoparticle production, says Anand—who also cautions that nanoparticles "should be used judiciously," because they tend to "entrain into human bodies."

Explore further: Nanoparticles Designed for Dual-Mode Imaging

More information: The article, "Role of nano-additive blended biodiesel emulsion fuel on the working characteristics of a diesel engine," by R. B. Anand and J. Sadhik Basha, appears in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.

Related Stories

Nanoparticles Designed for Dual-Mode Imaging

December 18, 2006

Nanoscale, inorganic fluorescent imaging agents such as quantum dots have become an important tool for researchers studying key biomolecules involved in cancer. At the same time, magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles are proving ...

Recommended for you

Mathematicians identify limits to heat flow at the nanoscale

November 24, 2015

How much heat can two bodies exchange without touching? For over a century, scientists have been able to answer this question for virtually any pair of objects in the macroscopic world, from the rate at which a campfire can ...

New sensor sends electronic signal when estrogen is detected

November 24, 2015

Estrogen is a tiny molecule, but it can have big effects on humans and other animals. Estrogen is one of the main hormones that regulates the female reproductive system - it can be monitored to track human fertility and is ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Apr 08, 2011
Right, and will we be breathing in nanoparticles of alumina instead of nanoparticles of carbon, or both?
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
Great, now breathing the exhaust will cause lung cancer.
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
That's one of the issues of nanotechnology in the wild. Silver nanoparticles are used to kill bacteria in antiseptics and antiperspirants. Rest assured all of these nanoparicles will be scrutinized before they will be applied in the wild

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.