The goal of this research is to develop a fundamental understanding of the evaporation and combustion behavior of nanofluid-type fuels as well as the underlying mechanisms that are responsible for this behavior. Nanofluid fuels, an exciting new class of nanotechnology-based fuels, are liquid fuels with stable suspension of nanometer-sized particles. Depending on the physical, chemical, and electrical properties of the added nanomaterials, nanofluid fuels can achieve better performance, e.g., increased energy density, easier and faster ignition, enhanced catalytic effects, improved combustion efficiency, and reduced emissions.
However, knowledge about nanofluid fuels remains very limited. Our research proposes to start down the path of developing a fundamental understanding of nanofluid-type fuels. This work will help to explain the fundamental mechanisms of how the addition of nanoscale materials to liquid fuels can enhance combustion performance. The research objectives include understanding (1) The interfacial properties and colloidal stability of nanofluid fuels; (2) The effects of particle addition on droplet evaporation and the ignition process, especially the role of thermal radiation; (3) The effects of various nanomaterials on the burning characteristics of small droplets at elevated temperatures and pressures.
Intellectual Merit: The novelty and strength of the proposal are threefold: (1) Nanofluid-type fuels are a new class of fuels and have been rarely studied by the combustion community. This project will unravel the controlling physics and chemistry of these fuels for the first time, thereby developing significant new knowledge and understanding. (2) The proposal is interdisciplinary by nature. It stands at the intersection of nanotechnology, colloidal science, mass and heat transport, and combustion science. Therefore this proposal has the potential to enlarge our knowledge base on several frontiers of science at once. (3) The proposed work is transformational because it will, for the first time, provide a quantitative understanding of how the addition of various nanoscale materials affects the evaporation and combustion processes of liquid fuels. This understanding will provide important guidelines for the optimized use of nanomaterials in terms of material, surface functionalization, particle size, and concentration in liquid fuels to achieve the desired performance.
Broader Impacts: The social benefits of this study lie in the areas of fuel economy, pollution control, and aerospace and space applications. In aerospace engineering, interest is increasing in developing a new generation of hypersonic flights, which largely depend on the ability to use liquid fuels that offer high energy density, short ignition delays, and high reaction rates. The nanofluid-type fuels with addition of nanoenergetics or nanocatalysts could potentially solve this problem. Nanofluid fuels can also be used for power/thrust generation under special circumstances. They can provide higher power or thrust for a longer time for compact systems where the volume of the carried fuel is limited, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or power Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS). They can also provide reliable and easy ignition of fuel for devices under extreme conditions, such as extremely lean combustion conditions or very low temperatures. Furthermore, the nanofluid fuels containing various nanostructured ignition agents may allow for the distributed ignition of fuels, which could greatly improve combustion efficiencies. The automobile industry has tested the idea of adding a small amount of nanocatalysts to diesel fuels and heavy oils, which shows improved combustion efficiency and simultaneously reduced particular and NOx emissions. Potential dramatic increases in fuel efficiency and decreases in pollutant emissions because of novel tailored fuels can lower fuel consumption, improve public health, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Lastly, the PI will collaborate with the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program to recruit minority students to participate in research.