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Solid-State Pump

Making a hot blue flame from a liquid fuel (think camp stove or kerosene heater) requires bulky pressurized tanks or failure-prone pumps. But Richmond, CA-based Vapore has built a ceramic, solid-state “capillary pump” that vaporizes liquid fuel and ejects the gas rapidly enough to promote blue-flame combustion-with no accessory equipment. This could give rise to combustion appliances that are smaller, cheaper, safer, and more reliable than those now available. Prototypes of the device-as small as a dried pea and as big as a computer keyboard key-use capillary force to draw liquid fuel into a micrometer-scale, porous structure. Heat applied to the surface of the pump vaporizes the fuel into a gas collection area from which the fuel escapes at high velocity through an orifice. The U.S. Army is considering the technology for lightweight stoves, and Vapore is shopping it around for consumer products; it could also be used for noncombustion applications such as making gas vapor for fuel cells, says Vapore CEO Robert Lerner.

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