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Holzvergaser gasgenerator wood gas generator gazogene Imbert
Georges Imbert Holzvergaser wood gas gazogene

Georges Imbert, father of mobile gas generators

 

Georges Imbert was born on March 25, 1884 in Niederstinzel (Lorraine). Thanks to his good school grades, he was able to attend the chemistry school in Mulhouse, one of the best in Europe at the time. Three years later, he graduated as an engineer. At the age of twenty, he filed his first patent; a further 15 patents followed over the next ten years. These included in the field of tri-based cleaning agents and the synthesis of indigo from acetylene.

After working in a soap factory and spending time in Manchester, he was drafted into the German army during the First World War. He worked as a chemist in Linden and Berlin. After the end of the war, he returned to Diemeringen, to his uncle's soap factory. Among other things, he worked on the production of synthetic fuels from coal. However, this process was uneconomical, so he came up with gasification technology: when a solid fuel is “burned” in the absence of oxygen, combustible gases are produced. These gases are then purified, cooled and fed into the engine. The early gas works all worked according to this principle, and the first gas lanterns and gas stoves were fired in this way (lignite was usually used as fuel).

Imbert built his first charcoal gas generator in 1921. A year later, the first motor vehicle ran on this principle. In 1922, the French government announced a competition for gas generators, which was won by the United Kingdom.


In order to become independent of foreign fuels, Imbert was commissioned by the French government in 1923 to develop a wood gas generator. He patented various processes for wood gasification in collaboration with the industrialist De Dietrich. They parted company because De Dietrich filed his own patents (Image: In 1937, the French state railroads placed an order with De Dietrich for three charcoal-powered railcars, which were delivered to the newly founded SNCF from 1938).

Holzgas Schienenfahrzeug wood gas train gazogene chemin de fer
Ford V8 Holzvergaser wood gasifier gazogene

In 1930, Imbert founded the “Society of Imbert Gas Generators” in Saarland (Germany) - his new home. The French war minister Maginot was very angry about this. To avoid being expropriated, Imbert was forced to sell licenses to other companies.

 

The entrepreneur Johannes Linneborn bought the German license for the Imbert generator. Despite constant further development of the gas generator, there were only 88 licensed gas generator tractors in the entire German Reich in 1938.

"Imbert Generatoren GmbH” was founded in Cologne, in the immediate vicinity of the Ford plants. The large-volume V8 engines from Ford were very well suited for operation with Imbert generators. Countless other trucks were equipped with the Imbert wood gas system. Many conversions by truck dealers and workshops are known.

The success in Germany enabled Imbert to continue its research. However, when the Saarland was evacuated from the approaching Wehrmacht in May 1940, Imbert fled to Epinal in the Vosges. He returned in September of the same year. However, the company now belonged to Imbert Cologne and Georges had to work as an employee in his own business.

Schema Holzvergaser wood gas gazogene
Holzvergaser traktor tractor wood gas gazogene

An “Ordinance on the Use of Tractors in Agriculture” dated November 11, 1939 prohibited the use of tractors outside of necessary field work and for operating stationary threshing machines under threat of fines of up to 10,000 Reichsmark. However, this measure was not enough to save enough fuel. In the meantime, the Second World War had broken out and the Wehrmacht had a correspondingly high fuel requirement.

 

The research center developed a “standard generator”, and wood gas-powered tractors were mass-produced in Germany from the beginning of 1942. Throughout the country, 2,000 wood gas filling stations were set up. Other tractors could be converted, but this was quite expensive (1,200 to 2,500 Reichsmarks). As a result, many tractors were taken out of service.

From Sweden to Australia, over 1 million vehicles were powered by gas generators during WW2. Truck mileages of over 300,000 km were achieved. The majority of civilian vehicles in Switzerland, Italy, France and Russia were also converted to gas generators. Initially, the Imbert generators were mounted on the vehicle in an unattractive way. Later designs were already harmoniously integrated into the bodywork. By 1945, Imbert had produced 500,000 gas generators in Cologne. The Ford plants in Denmark and Finland also supplied wood gas generators. Countless other companies produced Imbert-based gas generators for wood, peat, lignite, anthracite and smouldering coke.

 

Georges Imbert even received a Cross of Merit in 1944. During the occupation of Saarland by the Americans in December 1944, Imbert escaped arrest. However, his company was sold. Imbert lost interest and died on February 6, 1950 at the age of 66 in Sarre-Union in Alsace. 

 

After the Second World War and the end of petrol rationing, the production of gas generator vehicles was completely discontinued due to their limited power and their complicated and dangerous operation. Only a few wood gas generators survived the year 1952. The former buildings of the Imbert works are now part of the Ford factory site.

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