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ENERGIX-Stort program energi

NanoIgnite – Nanomaterial Photo Ignition of Carbon Free Fuels in Marine Engines

Alternative title: NanoIgnite – Fototenning av karbonfrie drivstoff i skipsmotorer ved bruk av nanomateriale

Awarded: NOK 2.0 mill.

The NanoIgnite project started in the April of 2021. As the world continued to deal with the ongoing pandemic, the project had a somewhat unusual start. The team got together and came up with a strategy of how to proceed under the given circumstances, and with a slight adjustment from the original ideas, NanoIgnite has stormed ahead. The aim of NanoIgnite is to explore the novel and radical technology of the ignition of fuels using the photo-ignition of carbon nanotubes. Essentially, flashing carbon nanotubes with high power light, which then ignite and burn, which in turn ignite a fuel and air mixture, such as methane and air. The ultimate goal is achieving this kind of ignition in an engine fuelled with a zero carbon fuel such as ammonia. The priority at the start of the project was the development of two systems. One system is to power a high output LED as the light source to flash the nanotubes. The other system is to deliver the nanotubes into the combustion chamber. The development of the LED system is well underway, with a number of LEDs and power systems being developed and a clear testing protocol in place. The project has made use of the excellent masters students available at NTNU to conduct the testing, as well as providing an excellent educational experience to work on a radical project. It is estimated that the LED, coupled to a new optical system will successfully ignite some nanotubes within weeks. Originally the concept was to conduct all of the work directly in an optical engine we have at NTNU. As the project got under way we have modified this strategy and are now conducting the initial testing in an optical bomb instead. The optical bomb is essentially a pressure vessel with windows, which we fill with a fuel and air mixture, then ignite, either with a spark plug or the nanotubes. The use of the bomb is preferred as it leads to an overall reduction in time required, as the bomb is a little easier to set up compared to the optical engine. We can also create a well-controlled gas mixture in the bomb which at this stage is a little easier to ignite with the carbon nanotubes and the LED and we have a greater degree of control of the experimental conditions. The decision to switch to the bomb at this stage has also greatly simplified the nanotube delivery system we can use, and allowed the testing to start, while the design of the optical engine nanotube delivery system can be done in parallel, once again making use of a masters student. Now the nanotube delivery to the bomb is in place and the bomb is undergoing some final stages of control development and testing, we will soon conduct the control tests with traditional spark ignition using an automotive spark plug. Then it will be time to ignite the mixture with a traditional camera flash (Xenon flash) to tune our nanotube mixture delivery, then finally the LED ignition. This will be the first time that this form of ignition has been successfully utilized.

When carbon nanotubes are irradiated with a high intensity light, such as a camera flash, they ignite and burn – a phenomena called photo ignition. NanoIgnite will develop and build a new engine concept using the photo ignition of carbon nanotubes to ignite a new environmentally friendly fuel – ammonia. While many applications currently using internal combustion engines are switching to alternatives, such as electricity, some applications will continue to use engines for many years to come. The maritime sector is such an application, due to the extreme ranges, the need for high robustness, the required lifetime of operation and the huge costs involved. To reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from this sector, alternative fuels with low or zero carbon are being examined. Ammonia is a very promising fuel and is forecast to be a major maritime fuel in the future. Ammonia is useful as a fuel but has some characteristics that make its use in an engine difficult to achieve and optimise. The main problems are that it is quite difficult to ignite in the engine and combustion is hampered by a low flame speed. Current state-of-the-art is to use a liquid fossil fuel with the ammonia. The liquid fossil fuel easily ignites in the engine and helps improve the combustion. The primary objective of the project is to use carbon nanotubes, in extremely small quantities and flash them with a very bright light emitting diode when inside the engine. These will then ignite the ammonia and massively improve the combustion. The critical R&D challenges faced are the development of a new light system, the development of a method to deliver the nanotubes into the engine and how to then combine them in an experimental engine with windows. Then ammonia will be ignited inside the engine to prove that the concept works and demonstrate the technology being applied in an engine for the first time.


ENERGIX-Stort program energi