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Wartime Woodburners: Gas Producer Vehicles in World War II Hardcover – February 28, 2009
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The author also teaches an understanding of the technical steps in harnessing therms from organics. This is presented
so a lay person can appreciate the difficulties these operators overcame to "keep on rolling". Amazing untold story ... until now. A valuable reference for both the technical AND the historical WW II era complete library. Highly recommended.
JOHN FULLER RYAN
SCHIFFER PUBLISHING, 2009
HARDCOVER, $29.99, PHOTOGRAPHS, 112 PAGES, ILLUSTRATIONS, SCHEMATIC DRAWINGS
Fuel gas, produced by the reduction of coal and peat, was used for heating, as early as 1840 in Europe, and by 1884 it had been adopted to fuel engines in England. The use of wood to provide heat is as old as mankind, but by burning the wood we only utilize about one-third of its energy. Two-thirds is lost into the environment with the smoke. Gasification is a method of collecting the smoke and its combustible components. Making a combustible gas from coal and wood began around 1790 in Europe. Such manufactured gas was used for street lights and was piped into houses for heating, lighting, and cooking. Factories used it for steam boilers, and farmers operated their machinery on wood gas and coal gas. After the discovery of large petroleum reserves in Pennsylvania in 1859, the entire world changed to oil-a cheaper and more convenient fuel. Thousands of gas works all over the world were eventually dismantled. Wood gas generators aren't technological marvels that can totally eliminate our current dependence on oil, reduce the impacts of an energy crunch, or produce long-term economic relief from high fossil fuel prices, but they are a proven emergency solution when such fuels become unobtainable in case of war, civil upheavel, or natural disaster. In fact, many people can recall a widespread use of wood gas generators during World War II, when petroleum products weren't available for the civilian populations in many countries. Naturally, the people most affected by oil and petroleum scarcity made the greatest advancements in wood gas generator technology. In occupied Denmark during World War II, 95% of all mobile farm machinery, tractors, trucks, stationary engines, fishing and ferry boats were powered by wood gas generators. Even in neutral Sweden, 40% of all motor traffic operated on gas deriveed from wood or charcoal. All over Europe, Asia, and Australia, millions of gas generators were in operation between 1940 and 1946. Because of the wood gasifier's somewhat low efficiency, the inconvenience of operation, and the potential health risks from toxic fumes, most of such units were abandoned when oil again became available in 1945. Except for the technology of producing alternate fuels, such as methane or alcohol, the only solution for operating existing internal combustion engines, when oil and petroleum products aren't available, has been these simple, inexpensive gasifier units. The World War II, Imbert gasifier requires wood with a low moisture content (less than 20% by weight) and a uniform, blocky fuel in order to allow easy gravity feed through the constricted hearth. Twigs, sticks, and bark shreds can't be used. The constriction at the hearth and the protruding air nozzles present obstructions to the passage of the fuel and may create bridging and channeling followed by poor quality gas output, as unpyrolyzed fuel falls into the reaction zone. The vehicle units of the World War II-era had ample vibration to jar the carefully sized wood blocks through the gasifier. In fact, an entire industry emerged for preparing wood for use in vehicles at that time. However, the constricted hearth design seriously limits the range of wood fuel shapes that can be successfully gasified without expensive cubing or pelletizing pretreatment. It is this limitation that makes the Imbert gasifier less flexible for emergency use. In this age of high fuel prices and concern with continuing availability of oil, scientists are working on a number of approaches to alternate fuel sources. In a new and timely book entitled WARTIME WOODBURNERS: ALTERNATE FUEL VEHICLES IN WORLD WAR II, author John Fuller Ryan has written a fascinating book complete with detailed photographs and drawings of "gas producer" vehicles that utilized the by-products of solid fuel combustion, employing such solids as coal, charcoal, turf, and wood to produce fuel gas for a standard internal combustion engine. This book provides an excellant overview of such vehicles, including those used by the Wehrmacht. The author has done an outstanding job of presenting this little known niche of World War II technology. A must purchase for any serious student of World War II.
Lt. Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard