Dr. Murray Thomson is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto and the Director of the Thomson Lab. He is also cross-appointed with the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry. His research is in the area of thermofluids with combustion/reactions with a focus on energy, biofuels, material synthesis, combustion modeling, and pollutant formation.
Professor Thomson was recently featured in the Globe in Mail to comment on the use of biodiesel fuel to power cargo ships:
“It’s going to be for niche markets,” Prof. Thomson said. “There’s not enough vegetable oil in Canada to convert all the diesel market over.”
Prof. Thomson said the source of the biodiesel is an important consideration. Fuel made from animal parts discarded by slaughterhouses diverts waste from landfills. Fuel made from oil seeds, on the other hand, is competing for food with livestock and humans.
Electric batteries pose the best alternative fuel for such light-duty vehicles as cars and delivery trucks, Prof. Thomson said, while hydrogen could power larger vehicles that require energy-dense fuels.
But replacing the vast production and distribution infrastructure of petroleum, from the wells to the pipelines and gas stations, with a network that can supply hydrogen everywhere it is needed is an undertaking that is neither cheap nor on the near horizon.
“If there was an easy solution, we’d be there already,” he said.
Read the full story, ‘In the search for less carbon-intensive fuels, Great Lakes freighters powered by soybean may be the answer’, on the Globe and Mail website.