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Ricardo and QinetiQ to evaluate novel diesel fuel reforming system using microwaves and waste heat

Ricardo will lead a feasibility study project—HeatWave—in which it will work with QinetiQ to evaluate a novel diesel fuel reformation concept that uses microwaves and waste heat from a heavy vehicle’s exhaust to reform the incoming fuel, increasing its calorific value and hence reducing net carbon dioxide emissions.

HeatWave will take an early stage UK-based technology developed by QinetiQ for aerospace APU applications and assess its potential as a low carbon vehicle technology. In the current system, a secondary energy input (currently electrically derived microwave energy) is needed for the reformation process.

The HeatWave feasibility project will assess the potential of using high- and low-level vehicle exhaust heat to drive the reforming process, minimizing the secondary electrical energy draw. A top level assessment will also be made of the potential for the technology to meet automotive performance, durability, integrity and safety requirements.

If successful, the project partners believe that HeatWave technology will increase heavy duty vehicle combustion engine efficiency by around 8-10% after allowing for the energy consumed by the reformer.

HeatWave aims to takes an emerging and very promising technology from the aerospace sector and evaluate its potential as a means of improving fuel efficiency—and hence reducing carbon dioxide emissions—in the economically crucial heavy duty vehicle sector.

—Nick Owen, project director for research and collaboration at Ricardo UK

HeatWave is one of two projects to be led by Ricardo out of a total of fifteen announced by the Technology Strategy Board as winners of its recent competition selected to receive government support to carry out feasibility studies into the development of disruptive low carbon vehicle technology.



This type of efficiency gain was called a scam a few years ago but may become a reality when serious developers are at it.

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sounds interesting. I am interested to find out on what sort of energy increases, is it the fuel's thermal energy or the chemical energy?


Why would a makeshift conversion be a better value than a purpose built EV?

It's like buying a Corolla and installing a THS from a Prius.

Fun and exciting, but expensive.

And uneconomical.


Oops - wrong article - sorry.


Azimo: There have been a few articles here which touch on this; the best I could find searching back was (And when you do understand could you explain it to me). It's more about not wasting entropy than energy.

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David, thanks a lot for the link. Now I understand what the reformer will do. It is actually breaking up the long hydrocarbon chain from the fuel into smaller gaseous molecules that will be easy to oxidize.

The calorific value is actually the same thus i dont believe the article's claim that the calorific value increases.

The benefit on the other hand comes in the form of easier to ignite charge or in other word, lower activation energy.

It is a neat idea originally by the American researchers but there are also many challenges, because transporting the gaseous fuels into the combustion chamber requires some form of pressure increase before the gaseous fuel can be moved.


I think the caloric value does increase, because the reforming from diesel to syngas is an endothermic proces, that is driven by the heat of the exhaust gasses.
So, part of the heat of the exhaust gas is returned into chemical energy. This syngas therefore not only has more favorable combustion characteristics, but also has a higher energy content than the diesel.

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not sure about that. if we supply more than enough pure oxygen to fully oxidize the reformed fuel, the heat released will still be the same.

Henry Gibson

Fuel reforming may be a very good idea that would allow the use of a standard, cheaper to produce fuel to be used in spark ignited vehicles. Heat recovery is also a good idea. Neither of these will achieve the increase of fuel efficiency that series hybrids would or the quicker to implement lower maximum motorway speeds. A special high temperature combustion chamber that burned diesel directly would be a more efficient, less costly way of producing the higher temperatures needed for fuel reformation. But companies and professors must use "magic" elements to get their money. The use of the "magic" word "fuel cell" had CARB continue to get money when they eliminated the ZEV requirement after being bribed. ..HG..

Henry Gibson

During WWII and after, Torsten Källe implemented the use of heat recovery to increase the efficiency of the use of charcoal in a charcoal burning automobile. Part of the exhaust containing CO2 was fed back into the overheated charcoal burning chamber to cool it by converting some charcoal and the CO2 to higher fuel value CO. C plus CO2 gives CO plus CO and this heat absorbing process cooled the gas generator and provided for a more efficient use of the fuel by using waste heat, that was going to be lost, for additional fuel production.

Some modern attempts have used steam to produce hydrogen with the waste heat by using the water gas process, but as a modification of this water process, I reinvented Torsten Källe's process, much later, by proposing to feed back the exhaust from one cylinder of a four cylinder engine into the gas generator. Torsten Källe discovered the optimum value of %17 rather than %25. Engine or turbine coal gasification electric plants should reconsider Torsten Källe's discoveries and the possible use of waste CO2 instead of oxygen or steam in the gassification process.

Torsten Källe also implemented charcoal dust and tar recovery and reuse. This makes the use of powdered or granular charcoal possible in an automobile or lorry or locomotive for convenient refueling.

Purefied carbon made from plants or even from coal can be a useful fuel for automobiles. It was one of the first biofuels and is a make it yourself fuel. It is also highly suited to range extended electric plug in vehicles where fuel is seldom needed because instant start of the range extender is not needed and seldom needed for most automotive uses.

The Still steam cycle was also a way of recovering exhaust heat and was also used in the Kitson-Still locomotive. A production version of such a machine could still find a place on the rails today instead of the far more expensive to build diesel electric locomotive. Combined cycle power plants are the gas turbine version today and are highly efficient but large. ..HG..

Roger Pham

Well, azmio, the reformed fuel has higher energy content than the diesel fuel, because the waste heat (energy) in the exhaust is used to add energy to reform the diesel fuel into a gaseous fuel of higher energy content. Plus, the combustion of reformed gaseous fuel H2 and CO will be very complete and clean, therefore reduce or eliminate the need for expensive post combustion exhaust treatment like SCR and DPF.

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