Tracing fuel component carbon in the emissions from diesel engines

Bruce A. Buchholz*, Charles J. Mueller, Glen C. Martin, A. S. Cheng, Robert W. Dibble, Brian R. Frantz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The addition of oxygenates to diesel fuel can reduce particulate emissions, but the underlying chemical pathways for the reductions are not well understood. While measurements of particulate matter (PM), unburned hydrocarbons (HC), and carbon monoxide (CO) are routine, determining the contribution of carbon atoms in the original fuel molecules to the formation of these undesired exhaust emissions has proven difficult. Renewable bio-derived fuels (ethanol or bio-diesel) containing a universal distribution of contemporary carbon are easily traced by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). These measurements provide general information about the emissions of bio-derived fuels. Another approach exploits synthetic organic chemistry to place 14C atoms in a specific bond position in a specific fuel molecule. The highly labeled fuel molecule is then diluted in 14C-free petroleum-derived stock to make a contemporary petroleum fuel suitable for tracing. The specific 14C atoms are then traced through the combustion event to determine whether they reside in PM, HC, CO, CO2, or other emission products. This knowledge of how specific molecular structures produce certain emissions can be used to refine chemical-kinetic combustion models and to optimize fuel composition to reduce undesired emissions. Due to the high sensitivity of the technique and the lack of appreciable 14C in fossil fuels, fuels for AMS experiments can be labeled with modern levels of 14C and still produce a strong signal. Since the fuel is not radioactive, emission tests can be conducted in any conventional engine lab, dynamometer facility, or on the open road. Published by Elsevier B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-841
Number of pages5
JournalNuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms
Issue numberSPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was performed under the auspices of the US Department of Energy by the University of California, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under contract no. W-7405-Eng-48. The research at UCB was supported by LLNL Laboratory Directed Research and Development grant 01-ERI-007. The research at SNL was funded by the US Department of Energy through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA #SC99/01561). The authors thank Stephen Goguen and Gurpreet Singh of the Office of Heavy Vehicle Technologies, and John Garbak of the Office of Advanced Automotive Technologies at the US Department of Energy for their support of this research.


  • Accelerator mass spectrometry
  • Diesel
  • Particulate matter
  • Volatile organic fraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Instrumentation


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