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NREL Scientists in Study Derive Bioblendstock for Diesel Fuel

The NREL scientists, together with colleagues at Yale University, Argonne National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, are a part of the Division of Power’s Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines (Co-Optima) initiative. Co-Optima’s analysis focuses on bettering fuel economy and automobile efficiency while decreasing emissions.

“If you look at biomass, 30% of it is oxygen,” stated Derek Vardon, a senior analysis engineer at NREL and corresponding author of a new paper detailing the Co-Optima analysis project.

The molecule, 4-butoxyheptane, incorporates oxygen whereas conventional petroleum-derived diesel fuel has hydrocarbons. The presence of oxygen considerably reduces the intrinsic sooting tendency of the fuel upon burning.

The paper, “Performance-advantaged ether diesel bioblendstock production by a priori design,” comes in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vardon’s co-authors from NREL are Nabila Huq as the first writer, with co-authors Xiangchen Huo, Stephen Tifft, Jim Stunkel, Earl Christensen, Gina Fioroni, Robert McCormick, Matthew Wiatrowski, Mary Biddy, Teresa Alleman, and Seonah Kim.

Researchers used corn stover-derived molecules as the starting point for an array of potential fuel candidates. From here, they relied on predictive fashions to determine which molecules can be greatest to mix with and enhance traditional diesel. The molecules had been prescreened based on attributes with implications spanning health and security to performance.

The intention is to mix the 4-butoxyheptane molecule into diesel fuel at a mix of 20%-30%. Initial outcomes recommend the potential to improve ignition quality, scale back sooting, and improve fuel economy of the bottom diesel at these blend levels.

Further analysis is required, Huq stated, along with testing the bioblendstock in an actual engine and producing the gas in an integrated procedure instantly from biomass.

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