What if I told you that we had a way to make gasoline usage of cars much, much lower? There are no tricks, no gimmicks, just some cool engineering. And the cherry on top, this technology has been used by countries since WW2! Let’s go through this, starting from the past.
A History Lesson
Fuel ran unbelievably low during the years of WW2. Fueling cars, battleships, tanks, trucks, and infantry for the war effort made the amount of fuel available to civilians miniscule compared to the pre war measures. Fuel boosters had to be used in order for civilians to move forward. Many used coal, synthetic oil, wood-gas, and simply stretching civilian life to the limit and then some. Nazi-Occupied Belgium used a different technology. In general, Nazi Germany had little access to fuel due to trade blockades from the Allies. The Germans themselves did not have much fuel for the army, never mind German civilians. Belgium was all but an after thought, and getting a healthy amount of fuel to the nation was laughable. To combat this, transport buses had to use an immense fuel booster. This booster was ammonia.
How it works
Gasoline still needs to be used, as Ammonia is a fuel booster, not a fuel replacement. The type of Ammonia used is also important. Anhydrous ammonia, or pure ammonia. Now with ammonia, the bonds between the Hydrogen atoms and the Nitrogen has a good amount of energy. Releasing this energy has to be through combustion. The combustion of ammonia releases pure Nitrogen and water. Better results of combustion could not be asked for. The energy that is released can help push the vehicle further. For things like starting the engine, gasoline or a rich hydrocarbon has to be used, while ammonia is good for sustaining distances.
Why use it?
- High pressure fuel: With the combustion of ammonia, the volume actually increases, making the pressure in a closed system even greater. The higher the pressure, the larger ‘push’ the energy can be given. The rate of expansion is theoretically 1.057x, which is the highest out of any possible fuel.
- No carbon emissions: Hydrogen and Nitrogen are released with the combustion of Ammonia, creating one of the cleanest burns a fuel can produce.
- Simple fuel: Ammonia can be used for both a fuel cell and an internal combustion engine.
- Untapped energy: The most reliable project with ammonia as a fuel cell
- Quantity + Quality: 14 million tons of ammonia are produced in the US annually, making it one of the most transported substances in the US. The scaling up of ammonia isn’t an impossible task.
- Gasoline is terrible: The extraction, transport, and combustion of gasoline have led to nothing but problems. Climate change, constant war, and massive instability have been the results of a world reliant on oil. This has to change.
Challenges of Ammonia
- Storage: Ammonia isn’t a very dense substance, making storage a little harder with the amount of space needed.
- Toxicity: Nitrogen oxide could be formed with the combustion of Ammonia, making it dangerous when it comes to the engine of the car.
- Inertia: Any fuel change is going to have difficulties, and there is no exception here.
Ships actually use ammonia for transport, citing the carbon-free emissions to be the biggest reason to continue. With the need for carbon-free fuel rising by the day, we can expect ammonia to come into some form of fuel within the next couple of decades. At least for me, I’ll continue to look into this possible climate change solver, and maybe fit a car to run off it!
I’m Aniket, and I’m curious about how we can make the human experience better. If you would like to contact me, here is my Linkedin.
Ammonia Energy Association
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