February 12, 08
New Green Fuel to Power Light Aircraft and 150mpg Cars

A company at Purdue Research Park is creating a plant-based fuel that can help curb aircraft emissions. And it's developing a greener fuel-cell technology that someday may power motor vehicles and homes.

Swift Enterprises in 2001 as a propulsion and energy research company. Now, their six-person operation is testing an aviation fuel called Swift 523 that is made from plants, as well as an ethanol-powered fuel cell.

They have worked in the aviation and energy fields since graduating from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in the mid-1970s. They worked at Edwards Air Force Base in California, researching rockets and rocket fuel for the government, and have worked for aeronautics giants such as Boeing and Lockheed-Martin.

The Company said ethanol, when burned in an engine, uses 17 percent of its energy; by comparison, an ethanol fuel cell uses 76 percent of available energy.

E85 gasoline -- the kind many cars and trucks now can burn -- is less efficient, cutting mileage by about 25 percent. "In an airplane, you can't afford to lose 25 percent of your range," he said.

The company also is developing a fuel cell that uses ethanol and hydrogen peroxide to charge batteries. As part of a larger electrical system, John Rusek said such a car could get up to 150 miles per gallon.

Rusek wants to have prototype fuel-cell-powered vehicles ready to roll out in fall 2009.

Joe Hornett, senior vice president of the Purdue Research Foundation, said Swift is the only company at the research park studying aviation fuel, but that its research would be a boon to the industry.

"I don't know that there's a thing there that the airlines wouldn't like," he said.

In the coming year, Swift plans to ramp up its testing by using engines in Purdue laboratories.

"We're not doing anything (like) magic here," John Rusek said. "We're after the vision of making the world a better place."