Autoignition and reactivity studies of renewable fuels and their blends with conventional fuels

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Population growth and increasing standards of living have resulted in a rapid demand for energy. Our primary energy production is still dominated by fossil fuels. This extensive usage of fossil fuels has led to global warming, environmental pollution, as well as the depletion of hydrocarbon resources. The prevailing difficult situation offers not only a challenge but also an opportunity to search for alternatives to fossil fuels. Hence, there is an urgent need to explore environmentally friendly and cost-effective renewable energy sources. Oxygenates (alcohols, ethers) and ammonia are among the potential renewable alternative fuels of the future. This thesis investigates the combustion characteristics of promising alternative fuels and their blends using a combination of experimental and modelling methodologies. The studied fuels include ethanol, diethyl ether, dimethyl ether, dimethoxy methane, γ-valerolactone, cyclopentanone, and ammonia. For the results presented in this thesis, the studies may be classified into three main categories: 1.Ignition delay time measurements of ethanol and its blends by using a rapid compression machine and a shock tube. The blends studied include binary mixtures of ethanol/diethyl ether and ternary mixtures of ethanol/diethyl ether/ethyl levulinate. A chemical kinetic model has been constructed and validated over a wide range of experimental conditions. The results showed that a high-reactivity fuel, diethyl ether, may be blended with a low-reactivity fuel, ethanol, in varying concentrations to achieve the desired combustion characteristics. A ternary blend of ethanol/diethyl ether/ethyl levulinate may be formulated from a single production stream, and this blend is shown to behave similarly to a conventional gasoline. 2.Ignition delay time and flame speed measurements of ammonia blended with combustion promoters by utilizing a rapid compression machine and a constant volume spherical reactor. The extremely low reactivity of ammonia makes it unsuitable for direct use in many combustion systems. One of the potential strategies to utilize ammonia is to blend it with a combustion promoter. In this work, dimethyl ether, diethyl ether, and dimethoxy methane are explored as potential promoters of ammonia combustion. Chemical kinetic models were developed and validated in the high temperature regime by using flame speed data and in the low-to-intermediate temperature regime by using ignition delay time data. The results showed that even a small addition (~ 5 – 10%) of combustion promoters can significantly alter ammonia combustion, and diethyl ether was found to have the highest propensity to enhance ammonia ignition and flame propagation. Blends of combustion promoters with ammonia can thus be utilized in modern downsized turbo-charged engines. 3.Octane boosting and emissions minimization effects of next generation oxygenated biofuels. These studies were carried out using a cooperative fuel research engine operating in a homogenous charge compression ignition (HCCI) mode. The oxygenated fuels considered here include γ-valerolactone and cyclopentanone. The results showed that γ-valerolactone and cyclopentanone can be effective additives for octane boosting and emission reduction of conventional fuels. Overall, the results and outcomes of this thesis will be highly useful in choosing and optimizing alternative fuels for future transportation systems.
Date of AwardFeb 2021
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorAamir Farooq (Supervisor)


  • alternative fuels
  • ammonia
  • rapid compression machine
  • chemical kinetic modelling
  • ignition delay time
  • laminar flame speed

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