Types of Fuel Tanks

by Derek King

A fuel tank is a safe container used to store flammable gasoline and fuel. Nearly all automobiles and aircraft use fuel tanks in some capacity. Depending on the type of vehicle or aircraft, one type of fuel tank may be more suitable for use than another.

Metal Fuel Tank

A metal fuel tank is a fuel container welded from stamped sheets of steel or aluminum. These tanks are embedded within many automobiles. Their primary purpose is to hold and transport fuel to the engine, which then uses the fuel to propel the vehicle. Metal fuels tanks limit fuel emissions in a vehicle better than some other automobile fuel tank technology. The steel or aluminum material traps a considerable amount of harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide within the tank.

Plastic High-Density Polyethylene

Plastic high-density polyethylene (HDPE) fuel tanks are used in most modern automobiles. The plastic gas tanks are safer and provide larger fuel capacities than metal tanks. HDPE fuel tanks are highly flexible and can take a variety of shapes. The fuel tank's flexibility and seamless build increases resistance to rupture or explosion during a crash, increasing the safety of drivers and passengers. The flexible fuel tank can be mounted directly over the car's rear axle, which allows it to operate safely away from the threat of a high-impact crash. The fuel tank can withstand temperatures higher than 230 degrees F, which keeps the car from fully exploding in the event of a fire. Because of their flexibility, HDPE fuel tanks can be manufactured at a much larger size than metal fuel tanks. HDPE fuel tanks average a fuel capacity of between 15 and 28 gallons.

Integral Fuel Tank

An integral fuel tank is used in many different aircraft structures. The fuel tank is created by sealing a specific area on the aircraft to use specifically for fuel storage. An integral fuel tank can theoretically be placed anywhere on the aircraft. The aircraft's wings are the most common place for integral fuel tanks to appear. Referred to as wet wings, they allow the aircraft to be much more agile than others. Large commercial planes that transport people and goods use the integral fuel tanks primarily.

Bladder Tank

A bladder tank is a fuel container in the shape of a large reinforced rubber bag. Installed primarily in aircrafts, the bladder tank is placed in areas that can support the overall weight of the fuel. The bladder is rolled up and installed into the qualifying area, and it is subsequently secured by the use of metal buttons or snaps. High performance, non-combat aircraft use bladder fuel tanks in order to store and use as much fuel as possible.

About the Author

Derek King is an undergraduate student attending the University of Austin. King was editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper for four years. In addition to online instructional articles, he also creates content for the music and entertainment blog GetFreshKid.com.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera wing from air image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com