Materials Energy

203: Iron Fuel


With the exponential use of electric power, replacing that of fossil fuels, as many reliable solutions as possible must be found to produce it.


Iron powder and rust

Ground very fine, cheap iron powder burns readily at high temperatures, releasing tremendous energy as it oxidizes in a process that emits no carbon and produces easily collectable rust, or iron oxide, as its only emission.

The energy released can be applied in various applications such as chemical processes, generation of electricity, or even used as a means of propulsion.

That rust can be regenerated straight back into iron powder with the application of electricity, and if you do this using solar, wind or other zero-carbon power generation systems, you end up with a totally carbon-free cycle.

The iron acts as a kind of clean battery for combustion processes, charging up via one of a number of means including electrolysis, and discharging in flames and heat.

The generated iron fuel in the reduction process can be stored and transported in a cheap and safe manner with hardly any energy losses. As a result, iron fuel enables energy provision, wherever and whenever.

In 2015, J.M. Bergthorson & colleagues of McGill University in Canada published an article in the Journal of Applied Energy about the potential of metal fuels and iron fuel in particular.

The following year, led by Philip de Goey, a multidisciplinary team of 30, students many already with bachelor’s and master’s programs, was set up at the Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands. Called SOLID, it has been dedicated to the advancement of metal fuels and combustion technology.

As proof of concept, the 340-year-old Royal Swinkels Family Brewers (formerly Bavaria NV), from Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands formerly using coal-fired power plants, has been using metal powder as a sustainable fuel to produce steam for their brewing process using an installation built by SOLID and the Brabant-based Metalot Power Consortium.

The system, capable of providing all the heat necessary for some 15 million glasses of beer a year, has been funded by the province of Noord- Brabant, and cooperation with the Metalot.

SOLID is now developing an improved 1 Mw iron fuel system, followed by a 10-MW system that should be ready in 2024. Our ambition is to convert the first into sustainable iron fuel plants by 2030

In addition, since May 2019, SOLID’s Maritime Innovation Impuls project (MIIP) is researching how to use iron fuel for various types of ship propulsion, with trials of the first iron-fuel ship by 2021.

Discover Solution 204: Robert Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition

Support 366solutions on Patreon and receive the ‘366solutions Insider Newsletter’ with updates on the monthly progress and successes of published solutions.

Leave a comment

Translate »