Researcher reveals how biofuels implemented as an alternative fuel for vehicles

Researcher reveals how biofuels implemented as an alternative fuel for vehicles

Vehicles have evolved to become more efficient and sophisticated, but their fuel has not necessarily evolved along with them. The Energy Department is determined to identify cleaner combustion and renewable alternatives to gasoline and, through the work of two UCF researchers, the DOE is one step closer to that goal.

Research engineer Anthony C. Terracciano and Associate Professor Subith Vasu have developed a model that will help engine designers, fuel chemists and federal agencies determine whether certain biofuels should be used as alternative fuel for vehicles. The research was conducted as part of the DOE Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines initiative, better known as Co-Optima. Findings have recently been published in Nature Scientific Reports.

“We worked with scientists from various U.S. government labs to come up with our research strategy,” Vasu says.

The researcher developed a model that will help engine designers, fuel chemists, and federal agencies determine whether certain biofuels should be implemented as an alternative fuel for vehicles.

In previous Co-Optim research, Vasu and his team tested five of the most promising biofuels, including ethanol. Vasu and his team studied biofuel diisobutylene (DIB), a natural by-product of sugar, for this research. “DIB has been selected as a potential drop-in biofuel for gasoline engines on the basis of a variety of factors including production costs, compatibility with existing infrastructure, fuel and combustion properties,” Vasu said.

Using the Advanced Light Source, a powerful particle accelerator at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, they were able to identify 46 molecules present in DIB flames during ignition. This is the first time that DIB has been studied with this facility.

“Our work specifically identifies the quantity of 46 molecules present in the combustion environment of DIB after ignition,” Terracciano says. “This provides an unprecedentedly rich framework that engineers and scientists can use to develop a full understanding of the reaction environment using these DIB fuels.”

The researchers investigated the two most common sources of DIB, alpha, and beta-strands. They created a combustion event in a jet-stirred reactor, a volume that is continuously stirred under fixed conditions. Chemical reactions were then inhibited in order to create a molecular beam that was bombarded with ultraviolet light from the ALS to generate ions.

This model can be easily implemented by any agency, and knowledge will help fuel developers to make the product much faster. “Fuel chemistry for vehicles is complex from the design and considerations of engines, infrastructure support, and emissions,” Terracciano says. “Fuel engineers need to ensure that the fuels sold fit within the octane standard envelopes. By knowing the combustion properties of specific fuel components, blends can be produced with less empirical testing.”

In recent decades, there have been concerns about the increase in anthropogenic pollution that can be seen through the launch of programs aimed at improving air quality in cities around the world. One of the strategic actions to reduce emissions of pollutants in urban environments is the relocation of local industries from urban to non-urban areas.

In recent decades, there have been concerns about the increase in anthropogenic pollution that can be seen through the launch of programs aimed at improving air quality in cities around the world. One of the strategic actions to reduce emissions of pollutants in urban environments is the relocation of local industries from urban to non-urban areas.

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