Alternative fuel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Typical Brazilian filling station with four alternative fuels for sale: biodiesel (B3), gasohol (E25), neat ethanol (E100), and compressed natural gas (CNG). Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil.

Alternative fuels, known as non-conventional or advanced fuels, are any materials or substances that can be used as fuels, other than conventional fuels. Conventional fuels include: fossil fuels (petroleum (oil), coal, and natural gas), as well as nuclear materials such as uranium and thorium, as well as artificial radioisotope fuels that are made in nuclear reactors.

Some well-known alternative fuels include biodiesel, bioalcohol (methanol, ethanol, butanol), chemically stored electricity (batteries and fuel cells), hydrogen, non-fossil methane, non-fossil natural gas, vegetable oil, propane, and other biomass sources.


The main purpose of fuel is to store energy, which should be in a stable form and can be easily transported to the place of use. Almost all fuels are chemical fuels. The user employs this fuel to generate heat or perform mechanical work, such as powering an engine. It may also be used to generate electricity, which is then used for heating, lighting, or other purposes.


Main article: Biofuel
Alternative fuel dispensers at a regular gasoline station in Arlington, Virginia. B20 biodiesel at the left and E85 ethanol at the right.

Biofuels are also considered a renewable source. Although renewable energy is used mostly to generate electricity, it is often assumed that some form of renewable energy or a percentage is used to create alternative fuels.


Main article: Biomass

Biomass in the energy production industry is living and recently dead biological material which can be used as fuel or for industrial production.

Algae-based fuels[edit]

Main article: Algae fuel

Algae-based biofuels have been promoted in the media as a potential panacea to crude oil-based transportation problems. Algae could yield more than 2000 gallons of fuel per acre per year of production.[1] Algae based fuels are being successfully tested by the U.S. Navy[2] Algae-based plastics show potential to reduce waste and the cost per pound of algae plastic is expected to be cheaper than traditional plastic prices.[3]


Biodiesel is made from animal fats or vegetable oils, renewable resources that come from plants such as,jatropha, soybean, sunflowers, corn, olive, peanut, palm, coconut, safflower, canola, sesame, cottonseed, etc. Once these fats or oils are filtered from their hydrocarbons and then combined with alcohol like methanol, biodiesel is brought to life[clarification needed] from this chemical reaction. These raw materials can either be mixed with pure diesel to make various proportions, or used alone. Despite one’s mixture preference, biodiesel will release smaller number of pollutants (carbon monoxide particulates and hydrocarbons) than conventional diesel, because biodiesel burns both cleanly and more efficiently. Even with regular diesel’s reduced quantity of sulfur from the ULSD (ultra-low sulfur diesel) invention, biodiesel exceeds those levels because it is sulfur-free.[4]

Alcohol fuels[edit]

Methanol and ethanol fuel are primary sources of energy; they are convenient fuels for storing and transporting energy. These alcohols can be used in internal combustion engines as alternative fuels. Butanol has another advantage: it is the only alcohol-based motor fuel that can be transported readily by existing petroleum-product pipeline networks, instead of only by tanker trucks and railroad cars.[citation needed]


Ammonia (NH3) can be used as fuel.[5][6] Benefits of ammonia include no need for oil, zero emissions, low cost, and distributed production reducing transport and related pollution.[citation needed]


Main article: Hydrogen fuel

Hydrogen is an emissionless fuel. The byproduct of hydrogen burning is water, although some mono-nitrogen oxides NOx are produced when hydrogen is burned with air.[7][8]


Main article: HCNG

HCNG (or H2CNG) is a mixture of compressed natural gas and 4-9 percent hydrogen by energy.[9]

Liquid nitrogen[edit]

Liquid nitrogen is another type of emissionless fuel.

Compressed air[edit]

The air engine is an emission-free piston engine using compressed air as fuel. Unlike hydrogen, compressed air is about one-tenth as expensive as fossil oil, making it an economically attractive alternative fuel.

Natural Gas Vehicles[edit]

Compressed natural gas (CNG) and Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) are two a cleaner combusting alternatives to conventional liquid automobile fuels.

CNG Fuel Types[edit]

CNG vehicles can use both renewable CNG and non-renewable CNG.[10]

Conventional CNG is produced from the many underground natural gas reserves are in widespread production worldwide today. New technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to economically access unconventional gas resources, appear to have increased the supply of natural gas in a fundamental way.[11]

Renewable natural gas or biogas is a methane‐based gas with similar properties to natural gas that can be used as transportation fuel. Present sources of biogas are mainly landfills, sewage, and animal/agri‐waste. Based on the process type, biogas can be divided into the following: Biogas produced by anaerobic digestion, Landfill gas collected from landfills, treated to remove trace contaminants, and Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG).[10]


Around the world, this gas powers more than 5 million vehicles, and just over 150,000 of these are in the U.S.[12] American usage is growing at a dramatic rate.[13]

Environmental Analysis[edit]

Because natural gas emits little pollutant when combusted, cleaner air quality has been measured in urban localities switching to natural gas vehicles [14] Tailpipe CO2 can be reduced by 15‐25% compared to gasoline, diesel.[15] The greatest reductions occur in medium and heavy duty, light duty and refuse truck segments.[15]

CO2 reductions of up to 88% are possible by using biogas.[16]

Similarities to Hydrogen Natural gas, like hydrogen, is another fuel that burns cleanly; cleaner than both gasoline and diesel engines. Also, none of the smog-forming contaminates are emitted. Hydrogen and Natural Gas are both lighter than air and can be mixed together.[17]

Nuclear power and radiothermal generators[edit]

Nuclear reactors[edit]

Nuclear power is any nuclear technology designed to extract usable energy from atomic nuclei via controlled nuclear reactions. The only controlled method now practical uses nuclear fission in a fissile fuel (with a small fraction of the power coming from subsequent radioactive decay). Use of the nuclear reaction nuclear fusion for controlled power generation is not yet practical, but is an active area of research.

Nuclear power is usually used by using a nuclear reactor to heat a working fluid such as water, which is then used to create steam pressure, which is converted into mechanical work for the purpose of generating electricity or propulsion in water. Today, more than 15% of the world's electricity comes from nuclear power, and over 150 nuclear-powered naval vessels have been built.

In theory, electricity from nuclear reactors could also be used for propulsion in space, but this has yet to be demonstrated in a space flight. Some smaller reactors, such as the TOPAZ nuclear reactor, are built to minimize moving parts, and use methods that convert nuclear energy to electricity more directly, making them useful for space missions, but this electricity has historically been used for other purposes. Power from nuclear fission has been used in a number of spacecraft, all of them unmanned. The Soviets up to 1988 orbited 33 nuclear reactors in RORSAT military radar satellites, where electric power generated was used to power a radar unit that located ships on the Earth's oceans. The U.S. also orbited one experimental nuclear reactor in 1965, in the SNAP-10A mission. No nuclear reactor has been sent into space since 1988.

Radiothermal generators[edit]

In addition, radioisotopes have been used as alternative fuels, on both land and in space. Their use on land is declining due to the danger of theft of isotope and environmental damage if the unit is opened. The decay of radioisotopes generates both heat and electricity in many space probes, particularly probes to outer planets where sunlight is weak, and low temperatures is a problem. Radiothermal generators (RTGs) which use such radioisotopes as fuels do not sustain a nuclear chain reaction, but rather generate electricity from the decay of a radioisotope which has (in turn) been produced on Earth as a concentrated power source (fuel) using energy from an Earth-based nuclear reactor.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Is Algae Based Biofuel a Great Green Investment Opportunity". Green World Investor. 2010-04-06. Archived from the original on 17 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  2. ^ "Navy demonstrates alternative fuel in riverine vessel". Marine Log. 2010-10-22. Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  3. ^ "Can algae-based plastics reduce our plastic footprint?". Smart Planet. 2009-10-07. Retrieved 2010-04-05. 
  4. ^ Wheeler, Jill (2008). Alternative Cars. ABDO. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-59928-803-1. 
  5. ^ Don Hofstrand (May 2009). "Ammonia as a transportation fuel". AgMRC Renewable Energy Newsletter. 
  6. ^ "NH3 Fuel Association". 
  7. ^ College of the Desert (December 2001). "Module 3: Hydrogen use in internal combustion engines". Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Retrieved 2011-09-12. 
  8. ^ Gable, Christine; Gable, Scott. "Fuel or Fool?". Retrieved 2011-09-12. 
  9. ^ "Hydrogen/Natural Gas (HCNG) Fuel Blends". Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). 2009-10-07. Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  10. ^ a b Frick, Martin; Axhausen, Kay W.; Carle, Gian; Wokaun, Alexander (2007). "Optimization of the distribution of compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling stations: Swiss case studies". Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 12 (1): 10–22. doi:10.1016/j.trd.2006.10.002. 
  11. ^ Marbek (March 2010). "Study of Opportunities for natural gas in the transportation sector". Natural Resources Canada. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  12. ^ Wheeler, Jill (2008). Alternative Cars. ABDO. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-59928-803-1. 
  13. ^ Penderson, Christian H. (2012). Association of Taxicab Operators, USA v. City of Dallas: Possible green light ahead for "head-of-line" policies favoring natural gas vehicles 36. Vermont Law Review. pp. 995–1013. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  14. ^ Goyal P (2003). "Present scenario of air quality in Delhi: a case study of CNG implementation". Atmospheric Environment. 
  15. ^ a b Aslam, M.U.; Masjuki, H.H.; Kalam, M.A.; Abdesselam, H.; Mahlia,, T.M.I.; Amalina, M.A. (March–April 2006). "An experimental investigation of CNG as an alternative fuel for a retrofitted gasoline vehicle". Fuel ( 85 (5–6): 717–724. doi:10.1016/j.fuel.2005.09.004. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  16. ^ Nylund, Nils-Olof; Lawson, Alex (2000). "Exhaust emissions from natural gas vehicles". IANGV Emission Report. 
  17. ^ Mathai, Reji, et al. (2012). "Comparative evaluation of performance, emission, lubricant and deposit characteristics of spark ignition engine fueled with CNG and 18% hydrogen-CNG". International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. doi:10.1016/j.ijhydene.2012.01.083. 
  18. ^ Hagen, Regina (1998-08-11). "Nuclear Powered Space Missions - Past and Future". Retrieved 2013-02-19. 

External links[edit]