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Hydro-Carbon Fuels and Society.

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Hydro-Carbon Fuels and Society. Hydro-Carbon fuels are some of the simplest and mot complex molecules man has refined for use. Most hydro-carbons are refined from crude oil by the process of fractional distillation, which I will go in to more depth later. Crude oil on its own is useless; however, its fractions are extremely useful. Modern society uses the fractions of crude oil for virtually everything. The hydro-carbons within crude oil can be use as fuels or to make plastics. As fuels, hydro-carbons are effective, can be efficient and relatively safe. As a result of this modern society uses hydro-carbons as the primary fuel, particularly in the combustion engine. The process of separating crude oil into its fractions is called fractional distillation. This is a simple process where the fact that different lengths of hydro-carbon chains have different boiling and melting points is used to separate the chains into useful products such as petrol, kerosene and diesel. Below is a diagram of the process. Another way in which we create more useful products from oil is cracking, by this it is meant that we take a long chain hydro-carbon such as bitumen into smaller, more useful hydro-carbons such a petroleum. ...read more.


As for CO2 it is known to be one of the green house gases. The green house gases have been linked to climate change and as a result are considered bad for the environment. Also a small amount of Hydrocarbons or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - produced mostly from unburned fuel that evaporates and Nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2, together called NOx) - contributes to smog and acid rain, and also causes irritation to human mucus membrane. A simple way to reduce the effects of exhaust emissions on the environment is to use a catalytic converter. This ingenious little device is located between the engine and the end of the exhaust pipe, as shown in the diagram. The converter it's self is made up of three main section, however to fully understand how it works we must first understand how it is controlled. Between the converter and the engine is a sensor which monitors the amount of oxygen in the exhaust stream. The sensor then tells the on board computer whether or not to increase or decrease the amount of oxygen entering the engine. ...read more.


Proton exchange membrane fuel cells are a reasonable alternative, they are almost like batteries that recharge themselves whilst power is drawn from them. This is very good idea, however it requires a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen to make water and hydrogen is exceptionally dangerous, especially when stored. The other main alternative is hydrogen power. Hydrogen can be produced from water by using the process of electrolysis. The big problem with this is that the hydrogen can not be produced as quickly as a vehicle might need it. Probably the best alternative is to use vegetable oil. The vegetable oil when mixed with distilled alcohol (can be made from same crop) is a great alternative to diesel. It works perfectly in diesel engines and will not run out (as long as we produce vegetables). As a result of this it is my astute opinion that vegetable oil is the fuel of the future. It is therefore my conclusion that modern society in its current form could not survive with out hydro-carbon fuels and that transport particularly will not change unless some one can find a way to eliminate or at least limit the problems with one of the alternatives. ...read more.

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