Nanoparticle fuel catalysts consist of fuel-borne nanoparticles of a catalytic agent that are uniformly dispersed in motor fuel in the form of a colloid. Typically the catalytic agent is a metal that possesses the properties of a catalyst. A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of chemical reaction without being consumed during the reaction. This process is known as catalysis.
Research into catalysis is a major field in applied science and involves many areas of chemistry, notably organometallic chemistry and materials science. Catalysis is relevant to many aspects of environmental science, e.g. the catalytic converter in automobiles and the dynamics of the ozone hole. Catalytic reactions are preferred in environmentally friendly green chemistry due to the reduced amount of waste generated.
Nanoparticles are very small particles whose diameters are measured in nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. A U.S. dollar bill is 0.004 inches ( 0.1016 mm.) thick. Measured in nanometers it would be 101,600 nanometers(nm). A particle one nanometer in diameter is approximately 3.5 times the diameter of a single atom of gold. Even the most powerful optical microscopes are unable to image nanometer size particles. It requires an electron microscope to image nanoparticles. These small particles are invisible to the naked eye and will easily pass through fuel filters having the smallest pore size. A one micron size pore in a fuel filter is one thousand times larger than a one nanometer size particle.
The reactivity of a catalyst increases as the particle surface area increases. The surface area of nanoparticles increases as the particle size is reduced for a given amount of catalyst. Using nanometer size particles of a catalyst increases the surface area of catalyst and increases its effectiveness.
To better understand the effect that particle size has on surface area we will consider a U.S. Silver Dollar. The silver dollar contains 26.96 grams of coin silver and has a nominal diameter of 40 mm (1.574 inches). The total surface area of a silver dollar is approximately 27.70 square centimeters. If the same 26.96 grams of coin silver were divided into particles 1 nanometer in diameter, the total surface area of those particles would be 11,400 square meters which is equal to 122,708 square feet, or 2.817 acres. When the amount of coin silver contained in a silver dollar is rendered into 1 nm particles, the surface area of those particles is 4.115 million times greater than the surface area of the silver dollar.
An effective fuel-borne catalyst is required to have a large surface area. The extremely high particle surface area of nanoparticles allows the use of an exceptionally low concentration of the catalyst, typically, 1 part per billion (ppb). One part-per-billion is equivalent to one teaspoon in 1.3 million gallons!
Benefits of nanoparticle fuel catalysts
Typically the combustion process does not completely oxidize the fuel in the combustion chamber. This leaves unburned hydrocarbons to escape into the atmosphere as part of the exhaust. Smoke particles consist of these unburned hydrocarbons and other emissions and represent a loss of efficiency in the conversion of the fuel energy to horsepower. Complete combustion of a hydrocarbon would yield only carbon dioxide and water.
The addition of catalytic nanoparticles to motor fuel results in more complete combustion of the fuel in the combustion chamber. This reduces carbon deposits in the engine and reduces emissions. More complete combustion provides improved fuel efficiency resulting in more generated horsepower and more miles per gallon. When more of the fuel charge is consumed in the combustion chamber less unburned hydrocarbons are present in the exhaust resulting in lower particulates (reduced smoke) and lower carbon emissions.
It was anticipated that the performance improvement for vehicles with diesel engines would be superior to gasoline engines. Typically, diesel engines have a higher percentage of unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust than gasoline engines. The nanoparticle fuel-borne catalyst causes these hydrocarbons to combust more completely in the combustion chamber thus contributing to an increased output of engine power and lower emissions. Initial observations have proven this to be true.
Preliminary results of lowered emissions and increases in fuel efficiencies have shown great promise for this approach. A standardized suite of tests will measure the exhaust emissions from large diesel powered vehicles which will include particulates, total hydrocarbon, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and oxides of nitrogen. An independent testing laboratory will provide EPA acceptable data in support of the EPA Fuel Additive Registration program.
Real-world Case Studies
Going forward additional real-world testing will be performed using a variety of large and small trucks, buses and automobiles operating in various mission profiles. Mileage data is now being collected from selected research participants during the normal day-to-day operation of diesel powered trucks and buses being operated over-the-road and in city driving conditions. The mileage data will be presented in the Case Studies section as the information becomes available.
Once the EPA registration process is completed the fuel catalyst is expected to be marketed nationwide and eventually worldwide.
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