"Liquid air offers significant potential benefits as a future energy vector, both for use in light duty propulsion and as an enabler for other promising low-carbon powertrain innovations, particularly waste heat harvesting."
- Ricardo - Chief Technology and Innovation Officer - Professor Neville Jackson
Liquid Air as a Fuel
There is an existing global industrial gases industry, including a national distribution network throughout developed world. Liquid nitrogen is also produced on site at many heavy industrial plants.
Driver operated refuelling systems are already in use in Europe to support use of LN2 in refrigerated transport. Can deliver LN2/LAir at 100litres/minute.
An urban bus would require about ~200kg of LN2 per day to achieve a 25% diesel fuel saving. The UK's industrial gas industry currently exhausts 8,500 tonnes of nitrogen each night. This would be enough for 6.5 million car kilometres or 42,500 buses daily.
Liquid Air and Environmental Benefits
Liquid air and nitrogen are zero-emission fuels at their point of use, offering the same potential for dramatic local air quality improvement as electricity or hydrogen. Local noise emissions from a Dearman engine are likely to be significantly better than for a wellsilenced ICE operating at moderate speed and load; the materials used in the engine and its fuel tank are commonly known with low environmental hazard in disposal.
As with charging batteries or producing hydrogen, the underlying principle is to replace and/or reduce diesel consumption in transport applications with "stored" renewable energy, therefore reducing the overall carbon footprint as well as the urban emissions.
Greenhouse gases from the liquefaction process therefore require consideration as the liquefaction plant depending on the source of electricity. Most large-scale liquefaction already uses off-peak electricity with a lower carbon intensity than the average; and new build plant can be integrated with renewables delivering zero emission (with lower risk than batteries in terms of exotic materials).
The Liquid Air Energy Network
The concept of "liquid air" sprang to prominence in May 2013 with a ground-breaking report from the Centre for Low Carbon Futures, Liquid air in the energy and transport systems: Opportunities for industry and innovation in the UK, launched at the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Working within the newly created University of Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage (BCCES), and the Centre for Low Casrbon Futures, the Liquid Air Energy Network (LAEN) is the cross-academic, industry and policy group working to ensure the UK captures the full environmental, energy, societal and economic benefits of liquid air, and maintains its current international lead in this promising new industry.
The LAEN community of interest (industrial, commercial, academic and policy stakeholders) will explore the commercial opportunities of liquid air through a series of reports, conferences and seminars.