Science! An Engine Fueled with Liquid Nitrogen

All that is required to fuel these engines, basically, is liquid nitrogen.  We are surrounded by the stuff (most of the Earth’s atmosphere is nitrogen), and making liquid nitrogen is pretty straightforward and is almost a side effect of ‘more useful’ processes.  I would expect almost no ‘carbon footprint’ from this, and a spill from an accident should be almost a non-event — even if it gets on you you would probably take less damage than a similar amount of gasoline, if the gasoline catches fire.  Even accidentally dumped in an environmentally-sensitive area such as a breeding stream it would take a very large amount to have any particular negative impact (unlike gasoline).

I’d really like to see what comes of this.  This appears to have some huge potential.

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7 Comments

  1. Dave Przybyla

    Years ago I worked on a Physics experiment where we used liquid nitrogen to cool vacuum pumps. The stuff leaves quite a burn if it touches the skin. But not as bad as dropping hot solder on my bare leg.

    • That was kind of my thought. an accident that ruptures the liquid nitrogen tank might result in people getting it on them (potentially causing some burns), but gasoline in similar circumstances can catch fire and kill very quickly, especially once people start breathing the fumes and burning plastics and paint. I would think, too, that actually being able to transport and use liquid nitrogen as a fuel here would require a much more robust storage mechanism than is used for gasoline.

      It’s not yet practical, I think, but I think this has some huge potential and solves some other problems, if they can make it work.

  2. Herb

    I would expect almost no ‘carbon footprint’ from this, and a spill from an accident should be almost a non-event

    The straight forward creation process has a decent carbon footprint depending on the energy source although it does address my common refrain: we don’t have an energy problem we have a fuel (high density, transportable stored energy) problem.

    As for “by product of more useful process” so was gasoline at one point (kerosene was what petro distilling was originally all about) but once it became a common fuel the tail started wagging the dog.

    Finally, a spill may seem non-consequential but handling the stuff is not. Back in my Navy days I had to do liquid nitrogen handling a few times. Nasty , nasty stuff to get on you or sensitive equipment.

      • Herb

        I suspect my concerns about the relative safety with respect to gasoline will be answered by any move to make it a common fuel.

        That said, I’m still a fan of the idea of using electric (nuclear or solar) to crack atmosphere CO2 and H2O and create methane and O2. It’s carbon neutral (you get CO2 from the atmosphere to fuel up and put it back where you found it when you burn the fuel), and it’s got the high joule per kg of hydro-carbon fuels. Plus, it could be home based or use the existing distribution system.

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