Researchers Look to Replace Fossil Fuels With Metal Particles

Photo: Maarten van den Heuvel via Pexels

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, are taking a different look at how to replace our reliance on fossil fuels – metal particles.

While it may seem a little on the fringe for some, burning metal particles to release the energy stored during the refining process is not only used for fireworks, but also, the space shuttle’s solid-fuel booster rockets actually burn aluminum.

For the past 10 years, Jeffrey Bergthorson, associate director of the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design at McGill University, has been working with his team to identify how metal fuels could become the next low-carbon alternative to gasoline and diesel.

“To mitigate climate change, the world needs to transition away from fossil fuels,” said Bergthorson in a recent article by the McGill Reporter. “Biofuels can be part of the solution, but won’t be able to satisfy all the demand. Hydrogen requires big, heavy fuel tanks and is explosive, and batteries are too bulky and don’t store enough energy for many applications. Our research over the past 10 years has identified metal fuels as the best low-carbon alternative to carbon fuels.”  

The researchers point out that when metal powders are burned, they actually create a “stable, nontoxic solid-oxide products that can be collected relatively easily for recycling,” while fossil fuels create CO2 emissions that are absorbed into the atmosphere.

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