27 Feb 2002 – Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. has developed a fuel injection system that can use dimethyl ether (DME) as a liquid fuel in gas turbines, the company announced Tuesday.

DME is known as an eco-friendly, next-generation energy source, but it evaporates at room temperature, which makes it difficult to burn without complex fuel injection equipment. Kawasaki Heavy has engineered a fuel injection system capable of keeping DME liquid under room temperature, by cooling the fuel supply pipe using DME’s vaporization heat.

In contrast, the existing technology must rely on an evaporator and other additional devices to stabilize DME as a gas fuel. However, these devices have made DME systems more complicated and expensive. The new technology can substantially simplify these systems, the officials at Kawasaki Heavy said. As the effectiveness of the new technology has already been confirmed through testing, Kawasaki Heavy will release its liquid DME gas turbines by 2006, when mass production of DME is planned.

Thanks to the chemical similarity with liquefied natural gas, DME suppliers can use existing LPG supply facilities. To date, NKK Corp., Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co. and others have been developing mass production technologies and conducting feasibility studies to commercialize DME. Currently the chemically unstable DME is used only in aerosol products and for other limited purposes, but several firms have been competing in the development on DME-burning technology, looking to use it in much broader applications.