Ural Federal University: Scientists Suggested Using Methanol in Power Generation for Electric Cars

Professors of Ural Power Engineering Institute of UrFU Sergey Shcheklein and Aleksey Dubinin have developed a technology for generating energy for an electric car engine using methanol. The development has received foreign recognition. An article describing the technology was published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.

“We pour methanol into the fuel tank, and an air converter, which processes methanol into a gas mixture (synthesis gas) consisting of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, we install inside the vehicle. Synthesis gas is produced in a small volume, which is necessary for the current operation of the electric car engine. Synthesis gas is fed to the electrochemical generator based on solid oxide fuel cell (SOCC). Hydrogen is oxidized in the anode of the SFC and the energy of this chemical reaction is converted into electrical energy. Carbon monoxide enters a separate combustion chamber, where it is oxidized by air, releasing thermal energy. It is used to evaporate methanol and heat the catalyst involved in the process of methanol conversion to the gas mixture. Emissions of residual carbon dioxide are insignificant,” Sergey Shcheklein, head of the Department of Nuclear Power Plants and Renewable Energy Sources at UrFU, describes the essence of the process.

Methanol is a non-explosive substance, the simplest alcohol, its production is not expensive: methanol can be obtained from any organic resources, including plant biomass and solid domestic waste. The electrical efficiency of power plant with TTE is more than 42%, which corresponds to the level of the best advanced internal combustion engines. For comparison: efficiency, i.e. efficiency of conversion of liquid and gaseous fuels into mechanical energy, of diesel engines is 25%, of gasoline engines – about 20%.

Sergey Shcheklein and Aleksey Dubinin came up with the idea of using methanol after analyzing more than 220 experiments on obtaining synthesis gas from various natural hydrocarbon fuels – coal, gas, oil products. The advantages of this development are technological simplicity, minimal energy costs and energy losses, and high efficiency.

“In other words, it takes less fuel and oxidizer (air oxygen) to produce a unit of energy. Consequently, less air is consumed from the atmosphere, and significantly fewer combustion products, such as carbon dioxide and vital nitrogen dioxide, are produced,” comments Sergey Shcheklein.

Besides, methanol is more suitable for another task that scientists of the UrFU are solving – to use nuclear energy sources in the production of “raw materials” for HFOs. Conversion of hydrocarbon fuels into gas mixtures requires high temperatures, which modern light-water nuclear reactors cannot provide; their thermodynamic potential is almost twice as low. At the same time, obtaining methanol from methane using modern fast-neutron nuclear reactors is not only possible, but also the most energy-efficient way.

The methanol processing technology proposed by Sergey Shcheklein and Aleksey Dubinin is also suitable for use in the power and metallurgical industries. This work is part of the five-year project “Thermodynamic Analysis of Hydrogen Use for Metallurgical and Power Engineering Enterprises,” which was carried out under a state assignment from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation.