Supersonic transports could be powered by coal

March 20, 2000

Coal-derived jet fuels less likely to form engine deposits at high speeds

SAN FRANCISCO, March 29 -- To allow jet planes to fly faster safely, scientists are looking to coal, rather than petroleum, as a source of fuel. Coal-derived fuel is less likely to form engine-clogging coke deposits in jet engines at higher speeds and temperatures, according to research being done at Pennsylvania State University.

The research, which is funded by the United States Air Force, was reported here today at the 219th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The weeklong meeting is expected to attract about 20,000 scientists from around the world.

Fuel now used in commercial jet aircraft comes from petroleum and is typically exposed to operating temperatures below 600 F (300 C). As speeds increase, temperatures are expected to reach up to 900 F (482 C) and higher, says John Andrésen, Ph.D., of the Energy Institute at Penn State, where the research is being done.

"Jet fuels presently used have been shown to form solid deposits that can plug the fuel system and ultimately lead to catastrophic malfunction of the jet aircraft," says Andrésen. Coal-derived liquid jet fuels can withstand temperatures up to about 500 C for several minutes, he adds.

The reason for the superior performance of the coal-derived fuel is its ring-shaped hydrocarbon (alkane) makeup. Coal is rich in cycloalkanes, which are more thermally stable than the straight-line linear alkanes found in petroleum. Linear alkanes "are highly susceptible to thermal degradation at temperatures above 400 C, resulting in solid particle formation (coke)," says Andrésen.

Underway since 1991, the research project so far has been confined to laboratory measurement and analysis of how petroleum-derived and coal-derived jet fuels behave at different temperatures. The next step is laboratory testing of the fuels in actual engines. This phase is expected to take about five years, Andrésen estimates.

Although jet speed can be increased using current petroleum-derived fuels, how long you safely operate at higher speeds is the crux of the matter, Andrésen points out. Using coal-derived jet fuels, "you can operate at a high max speed for a longer time without running into any problems with solid particle formation," he says.

Speed isn't the only benefit of using coal as the source for jet fuels. Coal is much more plentiful in the United States than oil, which could reduce reliance on imports. Bituminous coal, the most abundant type of coal in the United States, is being used in the research project.

While more processing is needed to produce jet fuel from coal than from petroleum, it is still economically viable and competitive, Andrésen believes.

The investigation into coal-derived jet fuels is part of a large Penn State research project on jet fuels being conducted at the school's Energy Institute under the direction of Harold Schobert, Ph.D. Co-authors of the research report on jet fuel from coal are Chunshan Song, Ph.D., and undergraduate student James Strohm.

Dr. Andrésen is Associate Director and Research Associate, Applied Catalysis in Energy Laboratory, The Energy Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.

Dr. Chunshan Song is Associate Professor, Energy & Geo-Environmental Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.

James Strohm is an undergraduate student studying science and engineering at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.

Dr. Harold Schobert is Professor and Director of The Energy Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.
-end-
Dr. Andrésen will present his paper, FUEL 63, on Wednesday, March 29, at 11:45 a.m., at the Argent Hotel, Olympic Room.

A nonprofit organization with a membership of 161,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical Society ( www.acs.org ) publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

American Chemical Society

Related Jet Fuel Articles from Brightsurf:

Scientists develop a technique to dynamically curve a photon jet
Scientists of Tomsk Polytechnic University jointly with international colleagues have found a simple technique to dynamically curve a photonic jet, turning it into a photonic hook.

Comprehensive look at US fuel economy standards show big savings on fuel and emissions
In one of the first comprehensive assessments of the fuel economy standards in the US, researchers found that, over their 40-year history, the standards helped reduce reliance on foreign oil producers, saved $5 trillion in fuel costs and prevented 14 billion metric tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.

Spinning black hole powers jet by magnetic flux
A new letter has been found in the mysterious alphabet of black holes.

Hunting in savanna-like landscapes may have poured jet fuel on brain evolution
Compared to the vast emptiness of open water, land is rife with obstacles and occlusions.

Fossil fuel-free jet propulsion with air plasmas
Humans depend on fossil fuels as their primary energy source, especially in transportation.

First-ever photo proof of powerful jet emerging from colliding galaxies
Clemson University researchers and their international colleagues have reported the first detection of a relativistic on-axis jet emerging from two colliding galaxies -- the first photographic proof that merging galaxies can produce jets of fast-moving charged particles.

Jet stream not getting 'wavier' despite Arctic warming
Rapid Arctic warming has not led to a 'wavier' jet stream around the mid-latitudes in recent decades, pioneering new research has shown.

Acetone plus light creates a green jet fuel additive
Take biomass-derived acetone -- common nail polish remover -- use light to upgrade it to higher-mass hydrocarbons, and, voila, you have a domestically generated product that can be blended with conventional jet fuel to fly while providing environmental benefits, creating domestic jobs, securing the nation's global leadership in bioenergy technologies, and improving U.S. energy security.

A novel robotic jellyfish able to perform 3D jet propulsion and maneuvers
Jellyfishes in nature use jet propulsion to move through the water, which have been proven to be one of the most energetically efficient swimmers on the planet.

North Atlantic warming hole impacts jet stream
The North Atlantic warming hole (NAWH), a region of reduced warming located in the North Atlantic Ocean, significantly affects the North Atlantic jet stream in climate simulations of the future, according to a team of researchers.

Read More: Jet Fuel News and Jet Fuel Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.