Liquid air ‘key’ to reducing road transport emissions -- report28 April 2014

A report from the European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC) has highlighted the potential of liquid air to help the road transport industry reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases.

Called 'Energy Carriers for Powertrains', the report seeks to establish a roadmap for industrialised countries to cut emissions in the road transport sector by up to 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. The European Commission has committed itself to this goal.

The report reviews all potential fuel choices, and says liquid air is "an adaptable energy vector which can be created and consumed using traditional mechanical engineering technologies, stored safely in unpressurised containers, and made from a free, abundant raw material".

Liquid air, the report adds, can be used in many applications to improve or replace existing transport solutions, and deployed at electricity grid scale to balance supply and demand from intermittent renewable energy generation.

Air – and its primary constituent nitrogen, in liquid form – is 710 times denser than ambient air and of comparable density to diesel. It is routinely shipped and stored in unpressurised, insulated vessels at -196°C in many industrial and medical facilities.

Dearman Engine Company is currently bench testing a small engine using liquid air at Imperial College, London. The engine (pictured, with inventor Peter Dearman) will soon begin trials on an articulated refrigerated trailer unit at the MIRA test facility.

Toby Peters, CEO of Dearman Engine Company, says the potential for liquid air is "vast" and welcomes the report.

He adds: "We are confident that our planned refrigerated truck trials will attract global interest leading to the beginnings of a revolution in this specialised area, followed by the wider application of the technology, forecasted in the ERTRAC report."

Laura Cork

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