In connection with the recent agitation for free in-industrial alcohol, the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives has had hearings on the subject in Washington, when an interesting memorandum on the subject was presented by Prof. Elihu Thomson. We quote some portions of it as follows:
" Gasoline as well as kerosene has the great disadvantage that it floats upon water and is distributed by water. It is a well known fact that it is commercially useless to attempt to extinguish burning gasoline or kerosene by water alone. The use of water may, in fact, be a positive disadvantage in floating the burning material over considerable places in spreading fire. Not so with alcohol, which mixes with water in all portions, and which is at once diluted and prevented from remaining combustible.
We have recently tried at the Lynn works of the General Electric Company a Deutz alcohol engine, a type of engine made in Germany especially for use with alcohol, and the results have been such as to prove without a doubt the entire suitability of alcohol, f cheap enough, as a fuel for internal combustion engines. This particular engine is to be sent to the Island of Cuba and coupled to a dynamo for lighting. It will be operated with the cheap Cuban alcohol, which is, I am informed, sold there at about 12 to 15 cents per gallon. A few gallons of this alcohol were obtained and used in our tests here, and it was found to be a a high grade spirit, containing 94 per cent alcohol to 6 per cent of water, or about 91 per cent alcohol by weight.
While it is not methylated or denaturalized, there is no question that the behavior in the engine of denaturalized or methylated spirit would be identically the same as with the pure grain alcohol. To obtain this sample of Cuban alcohol it was necessary that we pay an import duty of $4 per gallon, with other charges, which made the cost of the material used in testing enormous as compared with its actual value in Cuba, and I may here remark that, as in testing an engine of this kind a considerable quantity of alcohol will be used, manufacturers in the United States would suffer a considerable disadvantage in building such engines as compared with those in a country where methylated spirits, untaxed, is obtainable. In fact, the cost of the material for testing the engines is probably a sufficiently strong deterrent just now to prevent the manufacture being taken up in the United States. The island of Cuba is, however, an excellent field for the use of such machinery, on account of the low cost of alcohol.
It may be mentioned here that our experiments developed the fact that alcohol is suitable as a motor fuel even when it contains as high a percentage as 15 per cent of water. Notwithstanding the fact that the heating value of alcohol, or the number of heat units contained, is much less than in gasoline, it is found by actual experiment that a gallon of alcohol will develop substantially the same power in an internal combustion engine as a gallon of gasoline. This is owing to the superior efficiency of operation when alcohol is used. Less of the heat is thrown away in waste gases and in the water jacket. The mixture of alcohol vapor with air stands a much higher compression than does a mixture of gasoline and air without premature ex plosion, and this is one of the main factors in giving a greater efficiency.
The exhaust gases from the alcohol engine carry off less heat. They are cooler gases. It is well known that the exhaust gases from a gasoline or kerosene engine are liable to be very objectionable on account of the odor. In our tests of the Deutz alcohol engine there was absolutely no such objection with alcohol fuel, the exhaust gases being but slightly odorous, or nearly inodorous, but what odor there was, was not of a disagreeable character.
There is.just now the beginning of a large development in the application of the internal combustion engine to the propulsion of railroad cars on short lines as feeders to the main lines. In this case an ordinary passenger car is equipped with a power compartment at one end, in which there will be installed an engine of, say, 200 h. p. of the internal combustion or explosion type. The growth of such a system is liable to be hampered in the near future by the cost of gasoline as a fuel, and the difficulties of using kerosene are still quite considerable. Especially is the exhaust likely to be offensive. In this case alcohol, which could be produced in unlimited amount, could be substituted.
It may be mentioned in conclusion that the efficiency - that is, the ratio of the conversion of the heat units contained in the fuel into power - is probably higher in the alcohol engine than in engines operated with any ether combustible, and doubtless, on account of comparative newness of the alcohol engines, there is still room for improvement in this respect."
A copy of the bill introduced in the House by Mr. Calderwood making ethyl alcohol free, if rendered un-drinkable, has now been circulated with a petition for signature. Accompanying the bill is a very interesting pamphlet going over the whole field of arts and industries, pointing out the manufacturing and other purposes for which untaxed denaturized alcohol would be used, and arguing that the development of many important industries is hampered by an excessive alcohol tax. Reference is made, for example, to use in lacquer work, where the solvent is the principal item of cost.
Special note is also made of the use of shellac and alcohol in binding together the coil or layers of wires in motors and generators. The use of this alcohol-shellac solution is also noted in regard to the manufacture of mica and other insulating material used in electrical machinery.