DOE expands fuel blend tests

The US Department of Energy will expand an existing project with Pennsylvania State University to test the consequences on engines using a special fuel blend, of diesel fuel and dimethyl ether, an additive that can be made from natural gas, coal, or biomass.


The US Department of Energy will expand an existing project with Pennsylvania State University to test the consequences on engines using a special diesel fuel blend.

The DOE said it has several partners in a project to develop cleaner fuels, among which is a blend of diesel fuel and dimethyl ether, an additive that can be made from natural gas, coal, or biomass. To determine engine wear, the DOE will expand a project in which this blend is used in a campus shuttle bus.

Researchers hope to learn how key properties of these fuel blends�such as viscosity, the way the liquid fuel compresses, and its lubricity�affect the performance, durability, and spray patterns of the fuel injectors.

The fuel must be injected at about 90 psi to keep the DME in liquid form. This could affect the wear rate of the injectors. Researchers also are considering whether additives will be needed to improve the fuel's lubricating properties.

The test vehicle is powered by a 7.3 liter, V-8 turbodiesel engine that will be modified to operate on the fuel blend. Navistar International Corp. and Caterpillar Inc., the manufacturers of the electronic fuel injectors for the engine, will assist the Penn State team in designing and constructing the injector durability test equipment.

The dimethyl ether will be produced by Air Products & Chemicals Inc., Allentown, Penn., using an advanced process developed with Energy Department support.

The DOE will provide $166,000 for the 2-year project through its National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh, Penn., and Morgantown, W.Va. Penn State and its team members will contribute $31,600.

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