Using Iron Powder as a Renewable Energy Source

MIE Professors Yiannis Levendis, Hameed Metghalchi, and Associate Professor Randall Erb are developing a new process to burn iron powder to produce carbon-free renewable energy.

This article originally appeared on Northeastern Global News. It was published by Alena Kuzub. Main photo: Iron converted into talc-like powder can burn under certain conditions just like coal, making it a potential green energy source. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Iron powder could soon become renewable energy resource, Northeastern researchers say

Burning iron could soon offer an abundant green energy source to help meet the world’s growing energy needs, according to Northeastern experts.

A group of Northeastern scientists have secured a $600,000 award from the National Science Foundation, titled “A Study on Burning Iron Particles as Carbon-Free Circular Fuels with co-Generation of Value-Added Nanomaterials,” to improve the process of burning iron to produce carbon-free renewable energy.

The NSF awarded Yiannis Levendis, distinguished professor of mechanical and industrial engineering; Hameed (Mohamad) Metghalchi, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering; and Randall Erb, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, a three-year grant to study burning iron particles as carbon-free circular fuel.

The iron fuel cycle could offer a green energy source and storage methodology, the scientists say.

“It is one of the many elements of the solution to global warming,” Levendis says. “It is not something that’s going to provide us a solution for everything, but it is going to contribute to these alternate methods that we are looking at.”

Head shot of Yiannis Levendis. A head moves a dial on a machine.
A hand holds iron powder, the next carbon-free energy, in a container.

1. Yiannis Levendis, top left and right, distinguished professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, at his lab at Northeastern, where he is studying the process of burning iron powder. 2. Iron powder, bottom photo, reminds Levendis of talc with particles smaller in diameter than a human hair. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Although natural gas has been a relatively inexpensive and cleaner substitute for coal, Levendis says, it provides only a 50% reduction of carbon dioxide.

“It is considered more of an intermediate fuel now until we get better solutions,” Levendis says.

Other clean fuel options like biomass, or organic materials from plants and animal waste that can be converted into energy, are finite, and some countries, like England, for example, have to import it.

Iron is one of the most abundant elements on Earth, Levendis says, and burning it does not produce greenhouse gases. With some fine-tuning, this energy source could be used in existing power plants, he adds.

Read full story at Northeastern Global News

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Related Faculty: Yiannis Levendis, Hameed Metghalchi, Randall Erb

Related Departments:Mechanical & Industrial Engineering