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M The Performance of Alcohol Fuels for Backpacking Stoves
Part Two: Water/Alcohol Blends

by Tony Beasley and Roger Caffin

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Article Summary:

Light alcohol stoves are very popular, but there has been a lot of confusion over what sort of alcohol should be used and whether water should be added to the fuel. Part 1 of this series looked at the alcohols themselves. We look at what effect adding water to an alcohol has on the efficiency and safety of an alcohol stove and the sort of flame it creates.

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, and also what happens when you blend water into different alcohols. This has implications for what sort of fuel should be used with the smaller beer-can pots. 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 Two: Water/Alcohol Blends"