Fuel Types and Their Characteristics

What's the Difference between Fuel and with Other Substances That Are Used to Power Our Devices/Equipment/Automobiles?

A fuel can be defined as any material that reacts with other substances and releases energy as a result of that reaction. Other substances are classified as electrical energy (batteries, capacitors, etc.) mechanical energy (dam, springs, compressed-air, etc.) and more.

For example, both fuel and batteries produce energy. However, while batteries make electricity from the stored energy in the battery; Fuel reacts with other substances and produces energy. Energy released by fuel reactions is converted into mechanical, heat and other energies.

Fuel Types

Oxygen or hydrocarbon related molecules are our common source of fuel. However, lately nuclear energy (derived from nuclear fusion/fission) and radioactive metals are also defined as fuel. It is interesting to note that our first known energy was derived from combustion of dry plants, trees, charcoal, coal and animal fats. However, our recent trend is to rely on renewable fuels and biofuels such as alcohols, biodiesel, etc.

Some of the Fuel Types Are Listed Below:

  • Chemical Fuels: A chemical fuel releases energy predominantly by combustion. Chemical fuels are classified based on the physical properties and fuel occurrences. Fuel type based on the physical properties can be solid, liquid or gas. Fuel occurrences can be either natural or artificial.
  • Natural vs. Artificial Fuels: Solid fuel such as coal is considered as natural whereas charcoal is considered as artificial. Liquid fuel such as petroleum is considered as natural whereas diesel is considered as artificial. Likewise gaseous fuel such as natural gas is considered as natural whereas hydrogen is considered as artificial.
  • Nuclear Fuels: Although all matters can be considered as nuclear fuel, it is commonly derived from nuclear fission or fusion. Common nuclear fuels are uranium-235 and plutonium -239.
  • Renewable and Biofuels: Renewable and biofuels are environmentally friendly. For example Biodiesel is renewable and clean. Biodiesel is made by adding ethanol and lye to the recycled cooking oils/fats, agricultural oil, etc. Biodiesel does not gel during extreme cold weather. Biodiesel can be replaced with diesel, but not with gasoline powered engines.