Physicochemical Properties of Fuels and Blends

Biodiesel is the most widely used biomass-based diesel fuel in the United States, with a current production capacity of approximately 2 billion gallons according to the Energy Information Agency.  The use of biodiesel in place of or in blends with petroleum-based diesel fuel helps reduce net carbon dioxide and sulfur emissions.  In small blend percentages, biodiesel can be used in most engines with no modifications. 

Optimizing biodiesel’s affect on engine performance, in small and large blend percentages, will help maximize the fuel’s environmental benefit.  Biodiesel’s use as a fuel can be improved with a significant increase in understanding of the physicochemical properties of the fuel prior to injection.  Fuel at injection conditions is commonly one thousand times higher than at ambient.    

The focus of our work, performed in collaboration with Professor Chris Depcik of Mechanical Engineering and Professor Aaron Scurto of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, is to collect and model the important property data of biodiesel and biodiesel blends with diesel fuel.  Past and current work has focused on viscosity at pressures up to 131 MPa for biodiesel feedstock (soy, canola, etc.) and blend percentage with petroleum diesel, pressure-induced freezing points, and other thermodynamic properties.  

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