The 1800’s brought us the industrial revolution and the internal combustion engine. Two developments of the 19th century that we can thank for more free time and the ability to get out on the road and enjoy it. We can also thank them for smog; increased numbers of Americans afflicted with respiratory diseases, and global warming. Since the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970, there have been significant reductions in hydrocarbon emissions yet these so-called “greenhouse” gases continue to pose a threat to the environment. According to Michael Kenny, Executive Officer of the California Air Resources Board, “Greenhouse gases really translate to Carbon monoxide more than anything else, there are a number of greenhouse gases, but that’s the one most people are familiar with, and what a greenhouse gas does is it allows the earth’s atmosphere to warm up, and then there are consequences to that such as reduction in the size of the ice caps, increased temperatures throughout the Earth, and that has an impact for us in the context of smog, because when you have warmer weather, you have more smog.”
We are all too familiar with smog and the clouds of industrial waste that billow from smokestacks. However, many of the sources of greenhouse gases are not always so obvious, For example, the simple act of refueling your car releases unseen yet hazardous green house gases into the air. This has prompted more than half of the states in the nation to enact Vapor Recovery legislation to deal with this problem. “Vapor recovery is very simple, Says Michael Kenny, “what we’re really trying to do is make sure those very fumes those green house gases, are not emitted into the atmosphere. So the concept is that we use technology to limit the amount of emissions that are occurring from that fuel” Originally in the states that required vapor recovery the approach was to use a gas pump design called the Balance System. Consumers found the nozzles on these pumps unwieldy and difficult to use. This system had to rely on the fact of a positive seal being made with the filler neck on the vehicle and required the customer to compress the bellows on insertion. While it was great in improving air quality it had a lot of negatives to it specifically usage, people just had a difficult time compressing the bellows and making it work.
In order to develop a more effective vapor recovery system, there had to be a precise way to monitor and measure the levels of these escaping green house gases, a process that until recently required either a lab, or bulky and expensive field equipment. Major manufactures of fuel pumps are teaming up with creators of sensor technologies to develop miniaturized, low power, infrared components that can integrate with their gasoline dispensers. The result a better and user-friendly greenhouse gas recovery system.
Engineer Ed Payne, explains, “Vacuum assisted vapor recover works essentially on monitoring the thermodynamics involved in the refueling, it calculates precisely the amount of vapor being generated by the vehicle and retrieves that vapor through small orifices located on the end of the fill-neck. Unlike the former balance system, these assisted recovery systems require no cumbersome nozzle and to the customer it is transparent whether the emission control system is present or not” In fact you probably used one the last time you filled up and helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions without even knowing it.
The rapid advancement of the 20th century often occurred without proper regard for the environment. As we enter the 21st century, many industries have become their own watchdogs, developing ways to use technology to better police themselves, protecting the public and the planet.