McGill University project on zero-carbon metal fuels launches into space


Published: 4Dec2019

Recently, a project testing metal combustion led by the Alternative Fuels Laboratory at McGill University launched on a European Space Agency rocket.

The project, an international collaboration between the Alternative Fuels Laboratory at McGill, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, and Airbus Defence and Space, aims to improve scientific understanding of metal flames, laying the groundwork for a new type of green engine that burns iron powder, with only rust as a by-product.

“Burning metal powders, such as iron, doesn’t produce CO2 emissions. Unlike oil, natural gas, or coal, metals can serve as a truly sustainable way for storing and transporting clean renewable energy,” says J.M. Bergthorson, Professor of mechanical engineering at McGill University.

For six minutes in zero gravity before falling back to Earth, McGill’s PERWAVES experiment provided a unique glimpse at discrete fire, a new type of combustion that jumps from one fuel source to another. This experiment is not possible on earth because the metal particles settle too quickly with gravity.

The results will be analyzed to explore the ideal conditions for such combustion on earth and could one day be used to power things like vehicles with zero-carbon emissions.

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada’s top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 40,000 students, including more than 10,200 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,800 international students making up 31% per cent of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 19% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.

Contact Information

Shirley Cardenas
McGill University
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