Isopropyl-Methanol mix experiments in a Trangia 25

Discussion in 'Stove Forum' started by Reflector, Jun 12, 2021.

  1. Tony Press

    Tony Press Australia Subscriber

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    I might have one of those yellow bags somewhere…

    Cheers

    Tony
     
  2. Reflector

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    A strange addition and not so much about isopropyl alcohol but more of alternative fuels: Salting out hand sanitizer works and it seems hand sanitizer is oddly economical thanks to the pandemic when it comes to using a brand from Costco. Having seen videos of how hand sanitizer can be salted out and getting curious I procured a few bottles out of curiosity to see if the method worked for ethanol based hand sanitizer.

    I used a locally available (Costco) hand sanitizer with the least amount of additives of the ones in store (glycerin and so on) while having a 70% ethanol content. The brand is "Moxe" and it says "ethyl alcohol 70% by volume" with the inactive ingredients being listed as "water, carbomer, glycerin, aloe leaf juice, tocopheryl acetate, fragrance."

    The two unfamiliar items to me are carbomer and tocopheryl acetate. Carbomer being another name for "polyacrylic acid" or what seems to be the gelling agent from reading it. Tocopheryl acteate is known as vitamin E acetate which is an item of concern:
    I am unsure if it burned in the process and would avoid inhaling the combustion fumes intentionally. It apparently decays at 240C and is considered poorly soluble in ethanol so the risks posed by "vaping" versus combusting it in an alcohol stove are possibly different. It is the second to last ingredient thus is in the lowest amounts.



    Testing the sanitizer in the gel burner it seemed to burn without soot on a stainless steel MSR pot. Seeing that it worked I tried salting it out in separatory funnel and skimming the top layer off with a syringe it seemed to lose the "gel" as it sucked through the syringe with significantly less resistance. The water does not crash out of solution so I assume I am working with a little more concentrated than 70% ethanol plus everything else that did not separate from the salting process.

    Of course a separatory funnel or such isn't necessary, this could be done in a water bottle and syringe/turkey baster/just pouring carefully. I recommend the coffee filter just to catch stray bits of salt.

    Hand sanitizer in Trangia gel burner
    Sooting: None, surprisingly for all the yellow flames
    Stink: Mildly sweet fragance from ethanol and but notable smell from the perfumes
    Warmup/Blooming: Slightly difficult to catch fire (needs the flame on it for 1-2 seconds) but once it goes it turns blue. Warms up quicker in gel burner than in normal burner.
    When hot: Blue flames with a lot of yellow core.
    Cost: $0.03oz oz or 24% of HEET as a fluid
    Notes: High heat output from the gel burner. Forms residue in image attached. Residue does not seem to clean out from adding salted out ethanol nor isopropyl. Scrubs out with water. Seems to be the gelling agent and other things left behind. Looks transparent.
    Gel burner residue.jpg

    Salted out hand sanitizer (concentration unknown)
    Sooting: None
    Stink: Mildly sweet fragance from ethanol less notable smell from the perfume
    Warmup/Blooming: Slightly difficult to catch fire (needs the flame on it for 1-2 seconds) but once it goes it turns blue
    When hot: Blue flames a lot of orange as well in addition to rare bits of yellow in the core
    Cost: $0.03oz oz or 24% of HEET as a fluid, assuming the salting out only removes the 70% ethanol the maybe $0.04/oz plus the cost of plain sea salt ("negligible", avoid iodized table salt)
    Notes: DO NOT USE. Potentially can clog the normal Trangia burner as slow buildup of gel substance occurs. Likely should be run through a coffee filter to remove any residual amounts of salt after it settles. Looks hazy after salting out.
    Salted out hand sanitizer.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2021
  3. Reflector

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    A warning to the above post: Some of the remnants of the gelling agent and/or the other things can be left behind from what I suspect comes from insufficient salt/agitation. This is from burning close to 80ml of said salted hand sanitizer for a test:

    Slimey stuff.jpg Non combustible.jpg Gel in the jets.jpg

    It seems to clean off with a little scrubbing using the equivalent of a brillo inside the stove. The rest of it (like the stuff in the jets) dissolves when more alcohol is added and shaken with the cap on.
     
  4. Reflector

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    A correction: Don't use the salted stuff in the Trangia burner. While it has less buildup of the gel substance, it still has it and can clog the insides up potentially. I ran it through several times with salt and still found that the gel forming substance will be left behind within the gel burner when doing some test burns. Not worth the trouble to use in the normal Trangia burner but perhaps something could be cobbled up in regards to open burners like the gel burner.
     
  5. Marc

    Marc Subscriber

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    Seems like a lot of trouble, when even in California, there is fuel readily available.
     
  6. Reflector

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    It was an attempt and I wanted to further validate the results when it seemed too good to be true.
     
  7. Marc

    Marc Subscriber

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    Apologies, I didn't mean to rain on your parade. It's worthy research, and you took a lot of time to document and post it for others to share. Doubtless it'll bail someone out of a jam at some point. As this demonstrates, fuel may not always be available.

    I'm reminded of running vegetable oil in diesel engines. The main component which makes the practice hazardous is glycerin, which gums things up in a very similar manner.
     
  8. Jim Lukowski

    Jim Lukowski United States Subscriber

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    My assumption earlier was certainly off. I found the Crown alcohol stove fuel SDS and it contains 65%-85% methanol and only 20%-30% ethanol, so definitely poison and not an added bitterant. There were a couple of other chemicals, but in low concentrations. I'm glad for this thread so I don't think of any alcohols as being harmless while burning.

    If anyone happens to be curious: https://sds.packserv.com/sdsdisplay.php?pnum=CR.AS
     
  9. Reflector

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    I looked into the glycerin which probably is the other "gel" agent that is left behind from the ingredient list (and what causes the ethanol to be so cloudy) and it has a boiling point of 290C, whereas ethanol boils at 78C. I may try to "boil" the salted hand sanitizer (one of the methods is to use a pot with a smaller container in the middle plus a cone shaped lid to cause it to drip off from the top) later to effectively distill the alcohol. If it doesn't work then its left best as an open burner alcohol - the salted mixture seems to be better as a burn candidate in the open burner than the hand gel aside from what looks like a tiny bit soot buildup (that can be rectified with a little more water into the open burner I suspect) as it only leaves behind a bit of the gel rather than the nasty mess.
     
  10. Jeopardy

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    Just as a warning for anyone tempted to do this, redistilling any alcohol is at best dodgy from a safety perspective. Without the correct paperwork, it's highly suspect legally in most territories around the planet when dealing with the ethyl variety.

    Regards
    John
     
  11. Alcoholic Australia

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    There is also good science behind this. Alcohols have oxygen available within the fuel molecule itself, making it much less reliant on fuel/air mixing in the burner compared to pure hydrocarbons to achieve stoichometric combustion.

    This allows them to be burnt in open air as per the Trangia burner, without excess soot from incomplete combustion. It is also what drops the energy density of the fuel.

    But there is still insufficient oxygen within the molecule for full combustion- some air is still required. The Trangia burner relies on evaporation of the fuel to keep the burner cool and control the rate of combustion. In hot conditions this means an over rich burn as insufficient air can keep up with the faster evaporation of alcohol.

    Adding water to the fuel slows down the evaporation rate and therefore leans out the burner as air supply is roughly constant. While there is now a tiny amount of water in the burner to evaporate now, the loss of efficiency would be the same as that resulting from the incomplete combustion you would get by not doing it.

    Only now you have cleaner pans and have more difficulty seeing the flame during the day…
     
  12. Reflector

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    Well using a fractioning column works wonders but this now in the realm of extreme overkill. The distillate reeks of the perfume used in the original hand sanitizer still. Regardless to avoid running afoul of any potential regulatory matters I poured the output into a bottle of the iso-methanol mix which means it is definitely not fit for consumption (the perfume itself likely makes it NOT fit at all in the first place).

    Putting 30ml back into the Trangia burner to continue the process it seems to burn with blue flames. The distillate is clear and looks clean. It burns clean and with far less odor as well. I will report back further on results but if you're utterly hosed and out of options...
     
  13. Alcoholic Australia

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    I know a number of people in these parts who have tried to distil ethanol from our methylated spirits. Despite the name it doesn’t have any methanol in it anymore. These days it just has denatonium as the denaturant instead, which is non toxic.

    So you can drink meths now around here if you can stomach the taste. I haven’t met anyone who can though. Distilling it doesn’t help much either- much of the taste carries over - certainly enough to make it useless to drink.

    Of course none of this is necessary to burn it…
     
  14. Reflector

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    I'm going to be very clear on my experiments with hand sanitizer: This is purely for the sake of seeing if I could get a cheap alcohol fuel alternative (possible, the BTUs per dollar is similar to camp fuel...) in the long run as the California government has nothing better to do but make people's lives miserable. I'm just logging my results for documentation. I will be moving back to isopropyl-methanol(alternatively ethanol...) tests as I have an assured way to get inexpensive 91% now.

    Don't drink the stuff ever.
     
  15. itchy

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    Not quite. The oxygen in alcohols is already covalently bound to a carbon and a hydrogen and thus is "reduced". It is not "reduced" any further during combustion and thus does not contribute to the combustion process or generation of heat. Burning alcohol requires less oxygen (than burning hydrocarbon) because the carbon bound to that oxygen is partially oxidized prior to combustion -- it will acquire only one more oxygen atom whereas the other carbons will acquire 2 each. Some proponents of adding alcohol to gasoline have contributed to the misconception that the oxygen atom in alcohol is somehow used in combustion -- it is not, it is just along for the ride.

    But the role of water in reducing soot is much like you describe. It likely prevents the fuel from getting too hot and vaporizing faster than oxygen can be supplied.
     
  16. Reflector

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    70% isopropyl : (95%?) Ethanol (Actual amount used)

    1.5:1 (15ml/10ml, ethanol rather than methanol)

    Sooting: Yes, heavy and difficult to remove remainder
    Stink: Yes, less obnoxious than isopropyl-methanol at 2:1 but present.
    Warmup/Blooming: Some slight difficulty to light
    Cost: Less than 50% of HEET
    When hot: Very luminescent yellow flame tip, blue/orange core
    Notes: It seems ethanol has a higher requirement for oxygen than methanol when used with isopropyl. Seems to burn hotter/longer, likely due to higher energy content of ethanol.
    Hard soot from isopropyl-ethanol.jpg

    1:1 (6ml/6ml ethanol)

    Sooting: Yes, very faint (not readily visible to a casual glance) but can be scrubbed off
    Stink: Yes, very little
    Warmup/Blooming: Difficult to light
    Cost: Around 55% of HEET
    When hot: Yellow flame tip, blue/orange core
    Notes: Still forms a little (at least to the cleaning sponge) soot, little obnoxiousness in the smell
    Less soot.jpg

    1:1 + water (4.5ml/4.5ml ethanol/1ml)

    Sooting: No
    Stink: Yes, much less odor than previously.
    Warmup/Blooming: Oddly very difficult to light, maybe a problem from small quantities?
    Cost: Around 55% of HEET
    When hot: Orange flame tip, blue/orange core
    Notes: It seems ethanol has a higher requirement for oxygen than methanol when used with isopropyl. Seems to burn hotter/longer, likely due to higher energy content of ethanol.

    I advise against using ethanol in mixing with 70% isopropyl in close ratios, it needs the addition of water to work. Burning it straight or adding a slight bit of water works out better or otherwise potentially mixing it with methanol.
     
  17. snwcmpr

    snwcmpr SotM Winner Subscriber

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    So ..
    @Alcoholic & @itchy
    Adding water, as needed, increases as the ambient temperature increases?
     
  18. Alcoholic Australia

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    Thanks @itchy - you are indeed correct. The equivalent of the combustion of carbon monoxide. It would be more accurate to say that one carbon atom is already partly “combusted”. Same reason why methanol burns more cleanly again in open air?

    Makes me wonder though what happens to the hydrogen atom that is already bonded to that oxygen atom? Is it also along for the ride?

    @snwcmpr - yes, all other things being equal. Given the international variability in the recipes for denatured alcohol, other factors may dominate though. I understand some countries still use a significant proportion of methanol while we don’t use any in Australia anymore.
     
  19. Jaime Massang

    Jaime Massang Australia Subscriber

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    Don't claim to know much about the chemistry but the steam ( super heated, actually) from the added water mechanically breaks up the carbon deposited (i.e.soot) produced in the combustion process. Much like water injection in carburetor aspirated cars which was a popular thing to do in the seventies which not only reduced 'pinking' but also resulted in very clean valves and upper cylinder chambers.
     
  20. Tony Press

    Tony Press Australia Subscriber

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    Found it!

    This is from the instructions on the yellow plastic bag from a Trangia 27 set:

    “To avoid sooting, dilute the fuel with 10 or max. 15% water. FUEL: Methylated spirits”.

    FA63F106-7D22-417C-A31E-7828B43421F0.jpeg


    Cheers

    Tony