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M The Performance of Alcohol Fuels for Backpacking Stoves
Part One: Three Straight Alcohols and Alcohol Blends

by Tony Beasley and Roger Caffin

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Article Summary:

In this article, we first examine the performance and safety of three common alcohols as stove fuels, then we look at the effect of blending them together to see if any benefit can be obtained that way. In Part Two of this series, we will look at the effect of adding water to a single alcohol as far as efficiency and fuel consumption is concerned.

The three common alcohols that can be used as fuel in our backpacking stoves are methanol, ethanol, and isopropanol. 'Denatured alcohol' can be a mixture of some or all of these alcohols, plus other strange additives, while 'methylated spirits' has a known composition of 95% ethanol.

We will show that the performance of a particular alcohol stove fuel is generally related to the amount of heating energy in that fuel. We will also show that there are other very significant factors to be consider beyond the theoretical energy content, like health and safety. After that, we will show what happens when you blend different alcohols together. Finally, we make some recommendations.

Tony Beasley is responsible for the experimental work in this series. Roger Caffin is responsible for the writing.

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Part One: Three Straight Alcohols and Alcohol Blends"