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Innovation reduces carbon emissions

The end of the gasoline reserve tank in flex-fuel automobiles is a new way of reducing greenhouse gases

art4537img1GUILHERME LEPCABrazilian companies in the automotive, metallurgical and energy sectors have been developing product and process innovations that are contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Among the technologies analyzed by post-graduate students at the School of Economics, Administration and Accounting at the University of São Paulo (FEA/USP) and presented in a seminar on August 10, is a system that eliminates the need for the reserve gasoline tank in cold-starting flex-fuel vehicles, and a structural innovation in the crankshaft, an engine axle that transforms combustion energy (from burning fuel) into power for moving the vehicle, with a reduction in fuel consumption. Other processes are the creation of a multi-fuel system for small planes and an intelligent platform for managing electricity.

“The project for eliminating the little reserve fuel tank came about as an evolution of the electronic flex-fuel injection system,” says mechanical engineer, Eduardo Campos, commercial manager at Magneti Marelli, a manufacturer of systems and components for the automotive industry and the project’s coordinator. The objective of the research, which started in 2003, was to prepare the exact quantity of alcohol so that it was burned in the engine at the time of starting. Eliminating the need for gasoline when starting from cold with ethanol was a fairly complicated business because of the physical and chemical characteristics of alcohol that does not burn below 15o Celsius. “The little gasoline tank is a great emitter of pollutants, because it is activated when the car’s catalyst is still cold,” says Campos. The catalyst is a component of the exhaust system of automobiles that reduces pollution caused by the emission of gases that are harmful to the health, like hydrocarbonates, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

The system should be on the market by the end of next year when new vehicle models will be launched. It will be up to the automobile industry to define the best strategy so that the system for heating the ethanol, comprising electric heaters installed in the engine’s fuel injection system, starts functioning. “One of the proposals is that the electronic center starts the process when the driver opens the door of the vehicle,” says Campos. Another is that the system is activated when the vehicle’s ignition system is turned on.

“The technology can be used not only for the gasoline and ethanol mixture, but also for other combinations,” says Gleriani Ferreira, who was a speaker at the seminar coordinated by Professor Jacques Marcovitch, former dean of USP, when he presented a case study on this and other innovations in the automotive industry as part of the post-graduate discipline, Corporate Strategies and Climate Change, at FEA. In the automotive sector, another development that contributes to reducing fuel consumption is a structural innovation in the crankshaft from ThyssenKrupp. Some curves built into the center of the crankshaft improve its balance. “It came from a very simple idea. Instead of a linear support surface [bushing], it is concave,” says engineer, Ricardo Santoro Cardoso, who is responsible for product development at ThyssenKrupp.

072-074_Gases_188The advantage of the modification is that the part, with its new shape, stops the concentration of stress and therefore manages to have a greater load capacity. “Fatigue tests have proved in practice that this solution has 40% more resistance than the current one,” says Soares. The emission reduction account takes into consideration that if the diameter of the current crankshaft were to be increased to absorb more load, its mass would increase and it would have to revolve more to move the vehicle, which would represent more energy expenditure. “As the movement process is easier, there is a decrease in energy and fuel consumption,” says Cardoso. The innovation is being tested in the laboratory. The forecast is that tests on customers` engines, in the case of automobile industries, will begin over the next six months.

Something else new, which has already shown its capacity for reducing CO2 emissions in preliminary tests, is an aircraft flex-fuel system developed in a partnership between the Aeronautical and Space Institute (IAE), an R&D center linked to the Aeronautical Command, and Magneti Marelli. The system will allow light aircraft with piston engines (a combustion engine similar to that in automobiles) to use aviation gasoline, ethanol or even a mixture of the two fuels. “We have the second biggest piston-engine aircraft fleet in the world, used in agriculture, for training pilots, as air taxis, for leisure and private transport,” says engineer, Paulo Ewald, project coordinator.

The idea of using flex-fuel technology for aircraft began with the desire to improve the management of piston engines. “Today, aircraft engines that use a carburetor or mechanical injection depend on the pilot’s sensitivity,” says Ewald. “There’s only one engine ignition point, which is fixed and was conceived for the most critical condition of the flight, take-off.” In all other situations there is greater fuel consumption because one of the characteristics of these engines is that they use the fuel itself to refrigerate the engine. Engine adjustments are made manually for every variation in altitude. “The electronic management system, which is under development, is always going to look for the best ignition point, depending on the altitude at which the plane is flying, the engine revs. and the load,” reports Ewald. It also selects the most suitable air-fuel mixture. This means a less tiring experience for the pilot and a reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

art4537img2GUILHERME LEPCAThe flex-fuel system for aircraft piston engines is in the engine calibration phase. Initially, a North American made engine will be used, the Lycoming 0-360 A1D that develops 180 HP and is the same one used in aircraft like the Neiva Regente, designed by the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) as U-42. Preliminary data from the Aeronautical Propulsion Division of the IAE show that the use of ethanol in aircraft (in the Ipanema agricultural model from Embraer, for example) reduces carbon dioxide emissions by around 38% on take-off and by 63% when at cruising speed, in comparison with aircraft that use gasoline. The project received R$ 580,000 from the Studies and Projects Funding Agency (Finep), via a CT-Aeronautical sector fund.

Another innovation analyzed in the seminar is a technology called the Hemera platform that is being developed by CAS Tecnologia that has the capacity to manage all the information about the generation, transmission, distribution and consumption of electricity in a centralized way. “The technology comprises the `smart grids’ suppliers or intelligent networks in Brazil,” says José Guilherme Campos, who chose this type of system for a case study as energy efficiency is mentioned in a study by the World Bank as one of the main factors contributing to a low carbon economy. The system comprises an arrangement of hardware and software that uses the telecommunication infrastructure for collecting, storing, processing and transmitting information on energy flows and consumption.

Among the various functionalities are to offer consumers data via the web in real time, with simulations of the bill and the option of having a pre-paid tariff, as well as remote control on-line, with orders being sent to connect and re-connect an energy station. The system also facilitates the logistics of service in the field by integrating with geographic data and anti-fraud rules that provide the legal backing for cutting supply, etc. The system is used by energy suppliers for their customers, particularly the medium and high voltage ones (Group A), but it has the potential to be used by residential consumers. Among the applications is the automatic redirecting of the energy flow, for example, to hospitals when there is a blackout.

“The Hemera platform has made significant gains in terms of energy efficiency, with an average reduction in consumption of 20% after it was introduced,” said the director of Services at CAS, Odair Marcondes Filho, during the seminar. Large and medium size consumers from Group A represent around 2% to 3% of all consumers, but represent between 40% and 50% of the revenues of energy suppliers. The next challenge for CAS is low voltage residential consumers. But for this it is necessary to substitute electro-mechanical meters for electronic ones, a fundamental factor in the development and implementation of intelligent networks. This is a fairly complex task, since Brazil has more than 60 million residences. The Hemera platform has competitors in the market, with solutions being offered by M2M Telemetria and ADTS. “The resources, however,, are basically focused on remote measuring of data, identification of the lack of voltage level and phase and detecting leakage frauds,” says Campos.

Measures of sustainable production
A reduction in energy and water consumption, the emission of gases and waste production and an increase in vegetation cover and the number of patents

“Sustainability rhetoric must give way to measures, an effective instrument to measure the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions,” says Jacques Marcovitch. “This is a central principle in the transition to a low carbon economy.” The proposal of the professor is to use six measures to be applied in companies and to a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “Of everything available in terms of measures we chose six parameters that are considered a common denominator for all industrial sectors and all regions in the country,” he reports.
The sustainable manufacturing of any product must take into account the reduction in energy consumption per unit produced, the cut in greenhouse gas emissions, the decrease in water consumption, the reduction in waste, and the increase in vegetation cover and the number of patents per 100,000 inhabitants. “For each unit produced from one year to the next the manufacturer would have to reveal in a consistent and verifiable way each of the items listed.” To separate economic growth from the consumption of natural resources the same concept would be applied to the country with regard to its GDP.

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