A portable device, invented in Ireland, easily fitted to cars and trucks has been found to increase engine fuel efficiency by 15% and reduce harmful emissions of NOx compounds.
This is the conclusion of scientific tests on the device by Professor John Cassidy and Dr Michael Farrell, of the Dublin Institute of Technology.
The results of detailed tests on the ‘Nu Nrg Reformer’ – invented by Athlone-based businessman and architect David Harvey – will be published in an upcoming edition of the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.
How it Works
The Reformer device pictured on the right works by extracting water from the reservoir tank above, and splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen gas, the two elements that make up water.
The electrical power needed to get the Reformer working initially comes through a link to the combustion engine’s battery.
When the Reformer gets going, it starts to produce the two gases, and this causes the water in the tank to circulate and heat up.
This in turn causes gases to form and bubbles of gas rise to the top of the water.
The hydrogen gas exits the Reformer via a pipe which carries it to the engine which it enters via its air intake valve.
The hydrogen is burned as a fuel, which reduces the engine’s need to burn petrol or diesel. This improves combustion efficiency and almost eliminates the smoke and soot, which are particularly associated with some diesel engines.
Water vapour is also generated along with hydrogen and oxygen, and it is also piped to the engine via the air intake valve.
This cools the combustion temperature and ensures that oxides of nitrogen (commonly known as NOx) which are damaging to human health are significantly reduced.
Meanwhile, the electronic control module – the ‘brain’ of the device – adjusts the electrical charge going into the Reformer.
This ensures that only the required amount of electricity is going into the Reformer for the job in hand.
The water in the reservoir can be re-filled, and is ‘deionized’ thereby removing charged molecules which conduct electricity and could interfere with the electrical current.
The steel enclosure acts to hold the unit safely and secure it in position on the vehicle.
“The device is an electrolyser,” explained Professor Cassidy, “which means it splits water into its basic parts, hydrogen and oxygen.”
“There is a lot of work going on trying to produce hydrogen from water and other sources, as a cleaner fuel option to burning fossil fuels.”
Fossil fuels are running out at an alarming rate, explained Prof Cassidy, and this is being exacerbated by the growing fuel demand in China and India, yet there has been little progress on identifying new fuel sources.
While fracking and nuclear power have competed with renewable forms of energy such as wind, tide and solar, Prof Cassidy continued, there is scope for what’s called the ‘hydrogen economy’ to expand.
The majority of hydrogen is synthesised using ‘steam reforming’, said Prof Cassidy, which requires fossil fuel and steam to produce hydrogen.
There is another method for producing hydrogen which is called electrolysis, where water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using a direct electrical current. This accounts for only 4% of hydrogen production.
The Reformer device invented by David Harvey is an electrolyser.
The electrolysing method of producing hydrogen, said Prof Cassidy, is attracting greater interest because it offers the possibility of obtaining large amounts of hydrogen without the consumption of fossil fuels, emission of pollutant gases or use of nuclear power.
Cian O’Reilly, a chemistry graduate from DIT worked on the portable electrolysis cell in the DIT.
“The idea is to produce hydrogen, which can be used as a fuel in a combustion engine, reducing the need to burn petrol or diesel.”
“In a combustion engine, whether it uses petrol or diesel, this device supplies hydrogen to the engine via the air intake valve.”
“Since the device works at high temperature water vapour is also generated and introduced to the engine – essentially cooling it.”
“This cooling reduces the combustion temperature of petrol or diesel fuel in the engine, and, thus, the amount of NOx emissions produced.”
“Research has shown that introducing water vapour into the air intake valve of a diesel engine will reduce emissions and lead to a decrease in fuel consumption as less hydrocarbons will be burnt.”
The net result of fitting this portable device to an engine should increase its fuel burning efficiency by 15% and reduce emissions, said Prof Cassidy.
Inventor David Harvey, says that preliminary emissions tests in the laboratory showed a reduction in CO and NOx emissions – two gases which are poisonous to humans – by 91 and 93.4 per cent respectively.
Prof Cassidy said that while the emissions tests, which were carried out by Dr Jack Tracey at DIT, look promising, more testing is required.
The recent VW emissions scandal centred on the VW claiming falsely low NOx emissions from some of its popular brand of diesel powered cars.
Car manufacturers generally have struggled to find meet stringent NOx emissions regulations, particularly in the US, from diesel engines, while maintaining diesel engine performance.
“This device works at low direct electrical current, which means it requires less power input to achieve its efficiencies,” said Prof Cassidy.
“This also means it is safe, and we have shown it to be reliable and durable, as well as portable and inexpensive.”
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