- Number 312 |
- May 24, 2010
Biofuel combustion chemistry more complex than petroleum-based fuels
Cover image of the May 10
Angewandte Chemie publication.
In a paper featured on the cover of the May 10 issue of Angewandte Chemie, researchers from DOE's Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories examine the essential elements of biofuel combustion—an important step toward insightful selection of next-generation alternative fuels.
Coauthored by Sandia’s Nils Hansen and LLNL’s Charles Westbrook, the paper, “Biofuel combustion chemistry: from ethanol to biodiesel,” examines the combustion chemistry of compounds that constitute typical biofuels, including alcohols, ethers and esters.
Biofuels, such as ethanol, biobutanol and biodiesel, are of increasing interest as alternatives to petroleum-based transportation fuels. According to Hansen and Westbrook, however, little research has been done on the vastly diverse and complex chemical reaction networks of biofuel combustion.
In general, the term biofuel is associated with only a few select chemical compounds, especially ethanol (used exclusively as a gasoline replacement in spark-ignition engines) and very large methyl esters in biodiesel (used as a diesel fuel replacement in diesel engines). The biofuels are oxygenated fuels, which distinguishes them from hydrocarbons in conventional petroleum-based fuels.
While much discussion surrounding biofuels has emphasized the process to make these alternative fuels and fuel additives, Hansen and Westbrook are the first to examine the characteristic aspects of the chemical pathways in the combustion of potential biofuels.
To understand the associated combustion reactions and to identify recurring reaction patterns, Hansen and Westbrook agreed, it is important to study prototypical variants of potential biofuels.
Their study was funded in part by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which supports fundamental research, including research aimed at understanding, predicting and ultimately controlling matter and energy at the electronic, atomic and molecular levels in order to provide the foundations for new energy technologies and to support DOE missions in energy, environment and national security. Angewandte Chemieis the weekly, peer-reviewed scientific journal of the German Chemical Society.
Submitted by DOE's Sandia National Laboratories