The music band Fuel formed in Kenton, Tennessee when lead singer and guitarist Brett Scallions, bassist Jeff Abercrombie, and guitarist/backup vocalist Carl Bell got together in 1989. A little later, drummer Jody Abbott and keyboardist Erik Avakian joined to complete the quintet. Like most small bands looking for cash, Fuel started as a cover band, but soon took the critical step toward writing their own material.

The band relocated to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and in 1994, they released their own self-titled tape. Erik Avakian left the band soon after and Fuel reorganized under a four-man group and spent the next few years touring and tightening their music. Around that time, the band self-released a CD entitled Porcelain with 7 songs. The CD was recorded before and after a live show with recorders and mixers lying in their homes. Amazingly enough, the band sold 10,000 copies of their CD, all in live shows.

Local radio picked up "Shimmer" a song from Porcelain. The song is still regarded by many fans (I am one of them) as the best Fuel work to date. On May 6, 1997, Fuel signed with Sony Records. On July 28, the band had started recording their first commercial venture - an EP entitled Hazleton, which was released in the fall of 1997. In November, Jody Abbott left the band and was replaced by Kevin Miller for live shows. At the same time, Fuel was working on their first CD, Sunburn, and Johnathan Mover did the drums on the CD while the band was between drummers.

In mid-February of 1998, "Shimmer" was released to national radio, and in the same month, a video was shot. In March, Fuel recorded "Walk the Sky" for the Godzilla soundtrack. When Sunburn was released in late March, it immediately hit the Billboard Top 200 and peaked at a position of 79. In September, Fuel toured with Aerosmith. Around the same time, they worked on a video for "Bittersweet" as the follow-up to "Shimmer".

In October, Sunburn went gold and the band embarked on an international tour in Europe and Australia. The band went on a US tour with Local H and, later, with Silverchair. In September, 2000, Fuel released their second CD, Something Like Human, fueled (pardon the pun) by the radio favorite, "Hemorrhage (In My Hands)". "Hemorrhage" was very well received, and so was the followup song, "Innocent". Their current radio release is "Bad Day".


Fuels are substances which release usable energy either through an oxidation-reduction reaction with an oxidiser or through nuclear fission or fusion. Fuels are our main source of energy and are used in various ways – for example they are used to power cars and many other forms of transport, to provide the heat for cooking and to generate electricity.

There are various types of oxidation-reduction reactions involving fuels. The simplest of these are burning or combustion reactions where the fuel is burnt in oxygen. In this case oxygen is the oxidiser. All combustion reactions are exothermic. That is to say they release energy, mainly in the form of heat. Most electric power stations use the burning of fuel in air to produce steam which is in turn used to generate electricity.

Explosion is a special type of combustion in which the fuel is exploded to release mechanical energy. This is most often used in car engines. In fuel cell reactions a fuel reacts in an electrochemical cell releasing electrical energy directly. Using simple combustion reactions to indirectly produce electricity wastes as much as 70% of the energy released. Fuel cells, however, are much more efficient and many consider them the future for generating electricity. A number of car manufacturers have expressed an interest in developing fuel cells to power electric cars.

Hereon in only fuels which release energy by burning in oxygen will be considered. When selecting fuels to use there are many factors to consider – the waste products of burning most fuels are harmful to the environment, some fuels are more expensive than others and the energy output from fuels varies.

Various fuels will now be considered and their advantages and disadvantages in a number of circumstances made clear.


At room temperature hydrogen is a diatomic gas. This makes it difficult to store as in its gaseous form it leaks readily and cannot be held in an open container. Additionally unless it is held under high pressure it has a relatively low density. Where it is being used as a fuel hydrogen is usually held under very high pressure. This allows large amounts of hydrogen to be held in a small area but makes storage more complex. Hydrogen reacts as follows:

2H2               +         O2                           →        2H2O

Hydrogen        +          Oxygen                        →        Water

It can be seen that hydrogen burns in oxygen to produce water alone; this means that no harmful substances are released into the environment.

∆Hcөdiatomic hydrogen = -285kJ mol-1

The molar mass of diatomic hydrogen is 2.02g mol-1

Burning 2.02g (= 2.02 x 10-3kg) diatomic hydrogen emits releases 285kJ energy.

The energy density of hydrogen = 285 ÷ 2.02 x 10-3kg = 141000 kJ kg-1. (3s.f.)


Ethane is a gas at room temperature and so has the same storage problems as hydrogen. Ethane combusts completely as follows:

2C2H6              +          7O2                        →        4CO2                                     +          6H2O

Ethane             +          Oxygen                        →        Carbon Dioxide                              +          Water

As can be seen this reaction produces carbon dioxide which in large quantities is harmful to the environment and is a contributor to global warming. More dangerously if this reaction is not sufficiently ventilated then the release of carbon monoxide can result:

2C2H6              +          3O2                        →        4CO                                      +          6H2O

Ethane             +          Oxygen                        →        Carbon Monoxide                              +          Water

Carbon monoxide is toxic - it has a higher affinity for haemoglobin than oxygen and as a result prevents the blood from carrying vital oxygen around the body. Worryingly to warn of suffocation the body detects high concentrations of carbon dioxide rather than low concentrations of oxygen. If carbon monoxide is bound to the haemoglobin in the body the carbon dioxide concentration remains roughly constant and the oxygen concentration in the blood can fall dramatically. The body does not detect this and does not take actions to avoid further carbon monoxide inhalation and suffocation results. Due to its almost undetectable nature special care must be taken that ethane is oxidised completely and that the reaction is well ventilated.

∆Hcөethane = -1423 kJ mol-1

The molar mass of ethane is 30.07g mol-1

Burning 30.07g (= 3.007 x 10-2kg) ethane emits releases 1423kJ energy.

The energy density of ethane = 1423 ÷ 3.007 x 10-2kg = 47320 kJ kg-1. (4s.f.)


Butane is also a gas at room temperature. It reacts with oxygen as follows:

C3H8                +          7O2                        →        3CO2                                     +          4H2O

Butane             +          Oxygen                        →        Carbon Dioxide                              +          Water


As with ethane and indeed all the alkanes carbon dioxide and water are the end products and incomplete combustion results in the production of toxic carbon monoxide.

∆Hcөbutane = -2877 kJ mol-1

The molar mass of ethane is 58.12g mol-1

Burning 58.12g (= 5.812 x 10-2kg) butane emits releases 2877kJ energy.

The energy density of butane = 2877 ÷ 5.812 x 10-2kg = 49500 kJ kg-1. (4s.f.)


Octane is a liquid at room temperature and therefore does not have the storage constraints associated with gasses. It combusts as follows:

2C8H18             +          25O2                     →        16CO2                                  +          18H2O

Octane             +          Oxygen                        →        Carbon Dioxide                           +          Water

Again, being an alkane, carbon dioxide and water are the products of the complete combustion of octane and incomplete combustion results in the production of carbon monoxide.

∆Hcөoctane = -5400 kJ mol-1 (2 s.f.)

The molar mass of octane is 114.2g mol-1

Burning 114.2g (= 1.142 x 10-1kg) octane emits releases 5400kJ energy.

The energy density of octane = 5400 ÷ 1.142 x 10-1kg = 47000 kJ kg-1 (2 s.f.)


Ethanol is a liquid at room temperature and so can be stored easily. It burns in oxygen as follows:

C2H6O              +          3O2                        →        2CO2                                     +          3H2O

Ethanol                        +          Oxygen                        →        Carbon Dioxide                              +          Water

As with the alkanes carbon dioxide and water result from the complete combustion of ethanol. Unfortunately incomplete combustion can also result inn the production of carbon monoxide.

∆Hcөethanol = -1368 kJ mol-1

The molar mass of ethanol is 46.07g mol-1

Burning 46.07g (= 4.607 x 10-2kg) ethanol emits releases 1368kJ energy.

The energy density of ethanol = 1368 ÷ 4.607 x 10-2kg = 29690 kJ kg-1 (4 s.f.)

Which is best?

Octane is the best fuel in terms of energy produced per mole, however, in practical terms this means next to nothing.

Hydrogen has by far the best energy density and is the ‘cleanest’ in terms of products of combustion. Being a gas it is difficult to store. I feel that hydrogen would be suitable where a lot of fuel is required and the weight to energy ratio of the fuel is important. Although the example is rather clichéd hydrogen would make a good rocket fuel.

In many applications it works out inefficient to store a gas for use as a fuel. In circumstances where a liquid fuel should be used octane has the best energy density.

Ethanol, although having a relatively low energy density, is useful as it can be produced by processes such as fermentation which do not rely on the fossil fuels are rapidly running out.

In conclusion there is no individual ‘best’ fuel, some properties of fuels are more important in some situations than in others. As man’s supply of fossil fuels runs out and the awareness of environmental issues rises different fuels will become more frequently used.

Node your homework even if it makes for dull and incomplete nodes like this one :-P

Fu"el (?), n. [OF. fouail, fuail, or fouaille, fuaille, LL. focalium, focale, fr. L. focus hearth, fireplace, in LL., fire. See Focus.] [Formerly written also fewel.]


Any matter used to produce heat by burning; that which feeds fire; combustible matter used for fires, as wood, coal, peat, etc.


Anything that serves to feed or increase passion or excitement.

Artificial fuel, fuel consisting of small particles, as coal dust, sawdust, etc., consolidated into lumps or blocks.


© Webster 1913

Fu"el, v. t.


To feed with fuel. [Obs.]

Never, alas I the dreadful name,
That fuels the infernal flame.


To store or furnish with fuel or firing. [Obs.]

Well watered and well fueled.
Sir H. Wotton.


© Webster 1913

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