Thursday, June 22, 2023

Follow-up: Burning Iron As Fuel

We happened to post on the demonstration project a few years ago. Now they go large.

From IEEE Spectrum, June 22, 2023: 

Iron Fuel Shows Its Mettle
The plentiful metal could be a carbon-free fuel and store energy long term

By the end of June, a large 1 megawatt plant that burns iron fuel will fire up, producing the heat needed to brew beer at the Swinkels brewery near Eindhoven, Netherlands, in a test lasting for several months. The plant, named IRON+, is a joint venture between three companies and built on technology first demonstrated as a 100 kilowatt system in 2020 by the Metal Power Consortium, which includes the Eindhoven University of Technology and startup Metalot, which was spun out of the university.

The high melting points of metals make them useful components for machinery, electronics, and furnaces. But even metal can burn if you grind them into fine powders. What’s more, metals can burn without emitting toxic or planet-warming emissions, making them a potentially attractive fuel for producing clean power—one that can be easily stored and transported.

RIFT, another spinoff out of Eindhoven, recently demonstrated that it could heat five homes using its iron fuel technology. In Canada, meanwhile, startup Altiro Energy, launched by McGill University researchers, has run a prototype 10 kW iron fuel plant that they now plan to scale up.

Iron powder is an ideal alternative to carbon fuels, says Jeff Bergthorson, a mechanical engineering professor at McGill and the chief scientific advisor for Altiro. Bergthorson and colleagues at the European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency developed the metal fuel concept and published their report in the journal Applied Energy in 2015.

Iron is one of the most abundant metals on Earth, and the most produced. It has an energy density of about 11.3 kilowatt-hours per liter—better than gasoline. Burning iron powder produces heat that can be used directly or converted into electricity by a steam turbine, leaving behind iron oxide, or rust. This can later be reduced—that is, strip away the oxygen—back into iron powder. “You can think of iron fuel as a clean, recyclable coal,” says Bergthorson.....


In that long ago, well, 2020, post "World first: Dutch brewery burns iron as a clean, recyclable fuel" we included something with truly evil potential:
If you're like me—and I know I am, Chlorine Trifluoride was probably the first thing that came to mind when reading the headline.*


*Unrelated except for the messing about with iron oxide angle:
News You Probably Shouldn't Use: The Chemical So Awful It Can Burn Rust or Sand

How the hell do you burn something that is already oxidized?
Meet Chlorine Trifluoride: The Chemical That Sets Fire to Asbestos on Contact....