POPULAR MECHANICS (NOV. 1972)
A Furnace That 'Burns' Water
A revolutionary combustion system makes it possible to ‘burn’ emulsions of fuel and water. It works in a car engine as well as an oil furnace - and cuts pollutants, too.
It’s impossible. An oil burner simply can’t run on a fuel that is one-third water -- tap water, at that. But I recently saw it done.
The demonstration was at the Bayville, NY home of Eric C. Cottell, a British-born engineer and inventor. The gadget that made the "impossible" happen is a Cottell invention called the Ultrasonic Reactor -- a device resembling a long, slim electric motor. It contains a crystal stack at one end and a mixing chamber at the other.
When a 60-cycle current is applied, the crystals vibrate at 20,000 cycles per second, turning the reactor into a "super-blender". As shown in the diagram, oil and water (70% oil, 30% water) flow into the reactor, where a terrific vibrating force causes water and oil molecules to rupture. The two liquids form an emulsion in which tiny particles of water are dispersed throughout the oil. When this happens, says the inventor, the surface area of the water is increased millions of times. Thus, when the emulsion hits the furnace’s combustion chamber, the water "explodes" into superheated steam, adding to the energy output of the oil.
In hundreds of tests of his system, Cottell has found that ordinary boilers run at efficiencies close to 100% -- as astounding result that neither he nor leading combustion experts can explain. In the demonstration I saw, gauges indicated that the emulsion produced the same amount of heat as a 100% oil fuel.
In addition to stretching fuel, the system reportedly produces fewer pollutants than standard oil combustion. The fact that one-third less oil is burned is a key anti-pollution factor.
Though Cottell sees many potential applications for the reactor -- in auto, ship and plane engines, for example -- he thinks the best immediate application is in heating plants of large apartment buildings.
"This is by far my most exciting invention", says Cottell, who holds patents in the fields of ultrasonics, hydraulics, and chemistry.
by John F. Pearson