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Chapter: Mechanical : Advanced IC Engines : Alternate Fuels

Classification of Alcohols

Further Alcohols can be classified as two major types, they are: 1. Methanol 2. Ethanol

Further Alcohols can be classified as two major types, they are:



1.     Methanol


2.     Ethanol




Of all the fuels being considered as an alternate to gasoline, methanol is one of the more promising and has experienced major research and development. Pure methanol and mixtures of methanol and gasoline in various percentages have been extensively tested in engines and vehicles for a number of years [88, 130]. The most common mixtures are M85 (85% methanol and 15% gasoline) and M10 (10% methanol and 90% gasoline). The data of these tests which include performance and emission levels are compared to pure gasoline (MO) and pure methanol (M100). Some smart flexible-fuel (or variable-fuel) engines are capable of using any random mixture combination of methanol and gasoline ranging from pure methanol to pure gasoline. Two fuel tanks are used and various flow rates of the two fuels can be pumped to the engine, passing through a mixing chamber. Using information from sensors in the intake and exhaust, the EMS adjusts to the proper air-fuel ratio, ignition timing, injection timing, and valve timing (where possible) for the fuel mixture being used. Fast, abrupt changes in fuel mixture combinations must be avoided to allow for these adjustments to occur smoothly.



One problem with gasoline-alcohol mixtures as a fuel is the tendency for alcohol to combine with any water present. When this happens the alcohol separates locally from the gasoline, resulting in a non- homogeneous mixture. This causes the engine to run erratically due to the large AF differences between the two fuels. At least one automobile company has been experimenting with a three-fuel vehicle which can use any combination of gasoline-methanol-ethanol. Methanol can be obtained from many sources, both fossil and renewable. These include coal, petroleum, natural gas, biomass, wood, landfills, and even the ocean. However, any source that requires extensive manufacturing or processing raises the price of the fuel and requires an energy input back into the overall environmental picture, both unattractive.



Emissions from an engine using MlO fuel are about the same as those using gasoline. The advantage (and disadvantage) of using this fuel is mainly the 10% decrease in gasoline use. With M85 fuel there is a measurable decrease in HC and CO exhaust emissions. However, there is an increase in NOx and a large (= 500%) increase in formaldehyde formation.


Methanol is used in some dual-fuel CI engines. Methanol by itself is not a good CI fuel because of its high octane number, but if a small amount of diesel oil is used for ignition, it can be used with good results. This is very attractive for third-world countries, where methanol can often be obtained much cheaper than diesel oil.


Older CI bus engines have been converted to operate on methanol in tests conducted in California. This resulted in an overall reduction of harmful emissions compared with worn engines operating with diesel fuel.






Ethanol has been used as automobile fuel for many years in various regions of the world. Brazil is probably the leading user, where in the early 1990s, 4.5 million vehicles operated on fuels that were 93% ethanol. For a number of years gasohol has been available at service stations in the United States, mostly in the Midwest corn-producing states. Gasohol is a mixture of 90% gasoline and 10% ethanol. As with methanol, the development of systems using mixtures of gasoline and ethanol continues. Two mixture combinations that are important are E85 (85% ethanol) and EI0 (gasohol). E85 is basically an alcohol fuel with 15% gasoline added to eliminate some of the problems of pure alcohol (i.e., cold starting, tank flammability, etc.). ElO reduces the use of gasoline with no modification needed to the automobile engine. Flexible-fuel engines are being tested which can operate on any ratio of ethanol-gasoline.


Ethanol can be made from ethylene or from fermentation of grains and sugar. Much of it is made from corn, sugar beets, sugar cane, and even cellulose (wood and paper). In the United States, corn is the major source. The present cost of ethanol is high due to the manufacturing and processing required. This would be reduced if larger amounts of this fuel were used. However, very high production would create a food-fuel competition, with resulting higher costs for both. Some studies show that at present in the United States, crops grown for the production of ethanol consume more energy in ploughing, planting, harvesting, fermenting, and delivery than what is in the final product. This defeats one major reason for using an alternate fuel. Ethanol has less HC emissions than gasoline but more than methanol.


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