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Topic: Alternative Fuel for Alcohol Stove, The Search for Higher Heat of Combustion< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 03 2013, 11:57 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'm looking for a more energy dense fuel for alcohol stoves. Methanol is only 20MJ/kg.  Obviously ethanol is an easy improvement at 29MJ/kg.  I'd like something better still.   I couldn't find a specific figure for white gas but av gas is also a type of naptha with a specific heat of 47MJ/kg.  Anyhow, n-heptane looks like a possibility at 44MJ/kg.  Long term heptane toxicity is a concern but I'm not sure this would expose me to enough to be a problem.  

Has anyone else tried alternative fuels?
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 04 2013, 12:04 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Although I probably will start experimenting now that you bring it up (and probably set myself on fire...again), I have not. I've found SLX Denatured Alcohol to be my best fuel source so far and stuck with it.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 04 2013, 12:37 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

"a more energy dense fuel for alcohol stoves'
The problem with that is that alcohol stoves are designed to burn alcohol.
In fact because many US made stoves have been optimised to burn SLX, that is what they do best.
The reason why they are optimised and burn best using SLX (or whatever) is simply because that is the fuel used during the testing period.
The Caldera Cone/12-10 was one tested using SLX, MiniBull Designs reccomends Methanol (Yellow Heet)  again because that is what Tinny uses.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 04 2013, 12:54 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yes I realize the a system is set up for work well as is.  I'm using a Zelph Starlyte with a Ti Sidewinder and Evernew 0.9L.  I'm modifying that setup for better efficiency with a lighter aluminum pot, aerogel insulated carbon lid and new cone.  Modifications are pending efficiency analysis with a bomb calorimeter.  Given the poor design decisions I see even in this setup, such as the prevalence of poorly conducting titanium pots over aluminum, I'm confident there's room for improvement.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 04 2013, 4:32 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

"such as the prevalence of poorly conducting titanium pots over aluminum'

not so fast...
If all you want is a boil, then you will find that the thin Ti walls do a very good job at boiling your water fast.
They also do cool down quickly but that is only relevant for cooking and in particular simmering not boiling.
Of course if cooking is what you do, then yes aluminium is better.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 04 2013, 10:16 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(HikeClimbBike @ Jul. 04 2013, 12:54 am)
QUOTE

Yes I realize the a system is set up for work well as is.  Modifications are pending efficiency analysis with a bomb calorimeter.  


Higher caloric density fuels don't burn as easily and unlike alcohols often require pressurised and regulated flow to burn completely. They end up producing a lot of soot and other incompletely combusted materials that will contaminate your stove and reduce the apparent caloric density. Heptane might burn fairly cleanly but I suspect you're going to start seeing diminishing returns and unfavourable byproducts.

There might be room for improvement in ultra-light stoves but consider that companies putting millions of dollars into stove production and R&D have probably also attempted this, and concluded that they aren't worth it, or the market is hampered by some impediment (e.g. fuel availability/cost).

QUOTE
Given the poor design decisions I see even in this setup, such as the prevalence of poorly conducting titanium pots over aluminum, I'm confident there's room for improvement.


These aim of these designs are to maximise weight reduction, but do balance with function of course. Titanium might not be the best conductor but with the thinness of the material the difference in energy inputs is probably fairly minimal (anyone care to do the math? I'm a scientist, not an engineer :p ).
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 04 2013, 1:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'm an engineer so here goes.

The ultimate strength of a common Titanium alloy is about 1100MPa.  Aluminum varies from about 300MPa for 6061-T6, a very common alloy,  to 550MPa for 7075-T6.  So while titanium is 2-3 times as "strong" as aluminum this really isn' the property you're testing when you crush a pot in your pack.  The common crushing mode for a pot is due to a lateral load without its lid in place.  This can easily be seen in pop can design which even empty can support many pounds of axial load but any lateral load quickly crushes the sidewall.  

This failure is mostly a function of geometry.  The analysis is rather technical so I'll omit it.  However the easy solution is to add ridges to the pot.  This is seen on Zelph's beer can pots and such as well as some commercial cans and water bottles.  This means that titanium and aluminum pots of similar wall thickness have similar rigidity.  Titanium does still have an advantage and I'll omit the technical reason why but suffice it to say its nowhere near the 2-3x advantage the material properties indicate.  

Now we can discuss the heat transfer.  Alcohol stoves with small flames favor conduction over convection because there isn't a lot of hot air flowing.  White gas stoves would favor the latter.  This means we look at the heat transfer simply as a factor of the temperature gradient, T, and the material conductivity, k where heat flux = k*T. Obviously then heat transfer is linearly proportional to thermal conductivity and inversely proportional to material thickness.  Below are the coefficients of thermal conductivity for aluminum (pure, not alloyed) and titanium.  

Pure Aluminum 118 Btu/(hr * degree F* ft)
Titanium 11-13 Btu/(hr * degree F* ft)

Since aluminum has a 10x advantage in thermal conductivity even at 1.5 times the wall thickness of titanium aluminum will conduct better.  Now assuming we want the lightest pot possible we must look at material density.  

Titanium 4540 kg/m^3
Aluminum 2700 kg/m^3

Titanium is almost 2x more dense than aluminum.  This means that an aluminum pot at the previous 1.5x material thickness of titanium is still lighter.  

Now I'd like to point out an interesting caveat.  The thermal conductivity of both aluminum and titanium is orders of magnitude higher than water.  The metal/water transfer appears to be the limiting step.  However because water is fluid there is convective heating as well as conductive.  I'm not sure I know enough heat transfer to have faith in a FEA simulation but I'll see what I can do with an analytical solution.  This may mean that switching to aluminum doesn't improve stove performance much.  It seems that consumer preference for titanium would then swing manufacturing preference to this instead of aluminum.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 04 2013, 1:57 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(HikeClimbBike @ Jul. 04 2013, 12:30 pm)
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...because there isn't a lot of hot air flowing.

I think I'd have to contend with this statement.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 2:42 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

A couple of comments from two of the BPL stove gurus :
Tony Beasly :

My testing on Titanium vs Aluminum vs Stainless steel pots has shown that Titanium is the best performer followed by Stainless steel and Aluminum the worst but basically there very little difference between the three.

My thoughts are that there is a bit more into pot efficiency than material conductivity and thickness as thermal conductivity is usually negated by the thinness of backpacking pot materials, things like emissivity of the pot material is also an important factor on pot performance.

But the most important factor on pot performance is how high the flame setting your stove burner is set too.

Roger Caffin :
1) pot dimensions and lid design have an effect on efficiency, pot material doesn't.

2) For boiling water there's not a shred of difference.

3) Ti pots and cups are easier to handle and drink out of because the sides and rims stay relatively cool while aluminum cookware heats evenly and fully, i.e., hot!

4) I've never dented a Ti pot and pretty much all my Al pots have acquired dents, bends and the like



Note that both are research scientists in related fields but also do real life tests , so practice as well as theory.

my comments on that thread were based on having tested 2 pots of similar shape side by side on a gas stove.
Having swapped the two pots every second tests just in case one burner had a higher output, my conclusion (as in : what I saw not what I thought it would happen) was that the Ti pot boiled slightly faster than the Al but by a few seconds only.

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin....d=13180
Tony's bench :

Tony wrote an article about the performance difference between Isopropanol,Ethanol and Methanol, (and a mix)  but you need a subscription to read that.
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin....d=13180
from that (extensive)  article :
"The graph here shows how fast each of the fuels manage to heat 0.5l of water while using the same stove.
it is interesting to see that despite the significant differences in the fuel used the actual heating rates were very  nearly the same."
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 11:56 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks Franco for those snippets. Confirms my thoughts that at the given thickness of the materials and fuel types there's minimal differences in the water boil time.

The interesting part is how the Ti cups were easier to handle, which do indicate that thermal resistance is a factor, yet the boil times were not significantly different.

HikeClimbBike - thanks for that info too.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 12:21 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(HikeClimbBike @ Jul. 03 2013, 9:57 pm)
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[snip] I'd like something better still.   I couldn't find a specific figure for white gas [/snip]

Careful there.  Don't put white gas into an open-topped alcohol stove.  Of if ya' do, for pete's sake don't light it.

Alcohol burns like a candle... the liquid doesn't burn, the vapors do.  That's why it doesn't explode when you light it and it burns far better after it's warmed up.  White gas?  Boom.  Or at the very least, "whoosh" in a big ball of flame.  There's a reason white gas isn't used in alcohol burners, despite its higher efficiency.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 12:27 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

It looks like alcohol stoves CAN burn alcohol fuel. Zelph said he can boil 2 cups of water on 0.2 oz of white gas.  It also turns out that white gas is basically a mix of cyclo heptane and n-heptane.  

Venom SS Running White Gas
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 12:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Now, is this really a pursuit to trim 30 seconds off your boil time and a few grams off your gear? Or is this just a nerd thing?

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 12:31 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(HikeClimbBike @ Jul. 05 2013, 10:27 am)
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It looks like alcohol stoves CAN burn alcohol fuel. Zelph said he can boil 2 cups of water on 0.2 oz of white gas.  It also turns out that white gas is basically a mix of cyclo heptane and n-heptane.  

Venom SS Running White Gas

Gotcha.  They ensure it's a small-enough amount to be absorbed by the wick before lighting, without a larger reservoir being lit up all at once (which is a possibility if you leave too large a reservoir open to ignition).

Thanks for that, I learned something.  Still, be careful.

ETA: One thing to note about carrying white-gas versus something like alcohol.  The metal can/bottle that you need to haul white gas safely in a pack is quite a lot heavier than a plastic bottle for alcohol.  So, unless your trip is plenty long enough that the amount saved in fuel outstrips the heavier bottle, you're not really saving anything weight-wise.  An ounce less fuel in a 4-oz heavier bottle isn't terribly efficient.

ETA2:  There's only so much value in a figure like "2 cups on 0.2 oz fuel" obtained in best case warm-water conditions in a perfectly still zero-wind room (he says 0.33 oz fuel, btw, when using colder water).  I'd not expect that kinda performance in the real world outdoors.  As Zelph notes, that setup gets much sootier in even the lightest wind.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 12:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(bigsilk @ Jul. 05 2013, 10:30 am)
QUOTE
Now, is this really a pursuit to trim 30 seconds off your boil time and a few grams off your gear? Or is this just a nerd thing?

To be fair, it can equally be both. :p

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 4:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoBlueHiker @ Jul. 05 2013, 9:31 am)
QUOTE

(HikeClimbBike @ Jul. 05 2013, 10:27 am)
QUOTE
It looks like alcohol stoves CAN burn alcohol fuel. Zelph said he can boil 2 cups of water on 0.2 oz of white gas.  It also turns out that white gas is basically a mix of cyclo heptane and n-heptane.  

Venom SS Running White Gas

Gotcha.  They ensure it's a small-enough amount to be absorbed by the wick before lighting, without a larger reservoir being lit up all at once (which is a possibility if you leave too large a reservoir open to ignition).

Thanks for that, I learned something.  Still, be careful.

ETA: One thing to note about carrying white-gas versus something like alcohol.  The metal can/bottle that you need to haul white gas safely in a pack is quite a lot heavier than a plastic bottle for alcohol.  So, unless your trip is plenty long enough that the amount saved in fuel outstrips the heavier bottle, you're not really saving anything weight-wise.  An ounce less fuel in a 4-oz heavier bottle isn't terribly efficient.

ETA2:  There's only so much value in a figure like "2 cups on 0.2 oz fuel" obtained in best case warm-water conditions in a perfectly still zero-wind room (he says 0.33 oz fuel, btw, when using colder water).  I'd not expect that kinda performance in the real world outdoors.  As Zelph notes, that setup gets much sootier in even the lightest wind.

Mimicking a very old trick that dates back to my Dad's days in WWII at the least of filling a can with sand and adding gasoline to moisten the sand and using that to heat rations and water.

That said Gagaline is an explosion waiting to happen.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 7:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'm still not sure I buy the argument that material doesn't matter.  While its possible the convective currents in the water are the limiting step the existence of fins on the jetboil to improve transfer from the stove to the pot bottom indicate otherwise.  

If you think this is nerdy wait until you see the carbon fiber pot lids I'm making for Zelph.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 7:08 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Good grief!
Just use everclear, multi-purpose.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 7:34 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(HikeClimbBike @ Jul. 05 2013, 7:04 pm)
QUOTE
I'm still not sure I buy the argument that material doesn't matter.  While its possible the convective currents in the water are the limiting step the existence of fins on the jetboil to improve transfer from the stove to the pot bottom indicate otherwise.  

If you think this is nerdy wait until you see the carbon fiber pot lids I'm making for Zelph.

Build a thermal model if you don't believe it.  The Jetboil's efficiency gain is not so much improving transfer to the pot bottom as it is reducing losses around the sides, which is also where the Caldera Cone picks up its benefit.  More heat gets trapped underneath and is conducted to the pot bottom.  Improving that conductivity doesn't matter much if the heat can just blow right by.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 7:44 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

CF lid.
That is a good idea, I like mine.
The one I have is from Ruta Locura . lighter than the original Ti, stays cool to the touch , easy to lift off in spite of the tight fit.


My previous comments had to do with the difference between theory and practice.
I was aware of the Venom stove, after all I spend a couple of hours a day in the forums.
However that is one exception and it works because the fuel is absorbed into the wicking material.
So my point is that if you want a faster and maybe more efficient stove , say burning white spirit, you need to build a stove that can burn white spirit.
i know nothing at all about cars but I am pretty sure that they can't go faster using aviation fuel...
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(big_load @ Jul. 05 2013, 5:34 pm)
QUOTE

(HikeClimbBike @ Jul. 05 2013, 7:04 pm)
QUOTE
I'm still not sure I buy the argument that material doesn't matter.  While its possible the convective currents in the water are the limiting step the existence of fins on the jetboil to improve transfer from the stove to the pot bottom indicate otherwise.  

If you think this is nerdy wait until you see the carbon fiber pot lids I'm making for Zelph.

Build a thermal model if you don't believe it.  The Jetboil's efficiency gain is not so much improving transfer to the pot bottom as it is reducing losses around the sides, which is also where the Caldera Cone picks up its benefit.  More heat gets trapped underneath and is conducted to the pot bottom.  Improving that conductivity doesn't matter much if the heat can just blow right by.

+1
Given that the JetBoil Sol (aluminum) and JetBoil Sol Ti (titanium) boast the exact same boil times and fuel efficiencies (the only differences being weight and price), you'll have a hard time convincing me the material makes all that much of a difference in boil times.

http://www.jetboil.com/products/comparesystems

I haven't noticed any appreciable difference in the backwoods when using pots of either material.  But, if someone wishes to test it out to prove it to themselves, so be it.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 7:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

"Given that the JetBoil Sol (aluminum) and JetBoil Sol Ti (titanium) boast the exact same boil times and fuel efficiencies "
you beat me to it...
0.5L 2 min and 15 sec is the given time for both
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 10:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I just have a hard time spending 50 to 75 bucks for a Ti mug, that's all.  Saw a couple at HTO the other day.  Put them back on the shelf - very very gently...
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(Franco @ Jul. 05 2013, 7:51 pm)
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"Given that the JetBoil Sol (aluminum) and JetBoil Sol Ti (titanium) boast the exact same boil times and fuel efficiencies "
you beat me to it...
0.5L 2 min and 15 sec is the given time for both

Hmmm.  That's interesting.  It still conflicts with what little heat transfer theory I know but its hard to argue with results.  I dislike being wrong but the upside is that I can justify buying all my titanium cooking gear.  

The Ruta Locura lids look nice.  I'm amazed they're able to produce them so cheaply.  Either they're selling many hundreds of them or I'm just much slower and more wasteful laying up carbon fiber.
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(toesnorth @ Jul. 05 2013, 6:08 pm)
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Good grief!
Just use everclear, multi-purpose.

Finally! A sane and reasonable argument we can all agree on.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 11:40 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thing is theory only holds IF the correct limiting factor has been identified. Otherwise it's just one more WAG.... That gets run over by the cruel real world.

Which is why they still play the game. .
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(Tallgrass @ Jul. 05 2013, 8:38 pm)
QUOTE

(toesnorth @ Jul. 05 2013, 6:08 pm)
QUOTE
Good grief!
Just use everclear, multi-purpose.

Finally! A sane and reasonable argument we can all agree on.

+1.  Because gasoline tastes funny.

Hard to believe anybody in their right mind would consider loading up an alky rig with gasoline but I guess that's why there is the Darwin Awards.  What could possibly go wrong?

Sheesh.

HYOH and carry a fire extinguisher, is that it?  Dunno, I really hate the smell of burning feathers.

Drake
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As a kid ,burnt feather smell meant chicken for dinner , now it would be my puffy jacket too close to the flame.
How things change.
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(Drake @ Jul. 06 2013, 11:08 am)
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Hard to believe anybody in their right mind would consider loading up an alky rig with gasoline but I guess that's why there is the Darwin Awards.  What could possibly go wrong?

And I suppose you'd say an internal combustion engine is just a bomb right?  After all who in their right mind would ignite something in a confined space...

Just last year I designed an apparatus for NASA and flew it in their vomit comet that ignited a pellet of nanoparticles in a closed chamber.  That must have been dangerous too right?  There's a fine line between genius and insanity.  Some of us are intelligent and educated enough to be on the former side of that line.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 07 2013, 7:59 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hey I just got back from Iceland. Who knew they had no idea what Denatured Alcohol was. I thought it was a world wide thing.

But after searching we came across this stuff



Worked well seems to burn as hot or hotter then SLK.

It was a bit sooty but not as bad as one other option we picked up at an auto parts store. The pink color was neat

Funny thing is after the backpacking trip was over we ended up bumming around town and came across a hardware store. We went in to have a look around. What do I find but a small bottle of alcohol next to some Canister stoves.  So it is there but this T-Rod stuff is sold everyplace. No idea what it's real use is for.

I was about to buy a bunch of different solvents and have a try with them. We bought one other that came highly recommended as close to denatured alcohol. Forget what it was but it was really sooty and burned badly. That will be the other issue with alternatives to SLK soot


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