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Synthesis, properties, and suitability of various oxymethylene ethers for compression ignition fuels


Compression ignition (CI) engines are currently the most common prime mover for medium and heavy duty vehicles; these engines contribute roughly a quarter of US greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and even higher percentages of particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions. As a result, there have been significant efforts made to reduce these emissions, particularly through selection of low-emissions alternative fuels. Oxymethylene ethers (OMEs) are a class of molecule, typically structured R-O-(CH2O)n-R', which have been considered as a possible blendstock in CI fuels for the goal of soot reduction. Generally, past work has focused on methyl-terminated OMEs, CH3-O-(CH2O)n-CH3, which by virtue of containing no C--C bonds, produce negligible soot. These molecules show significant reductions in soot emission from engines when blended in moderate to high ratios with traditional diesels, however, they have been shown to have inferior physical properties and poor compatibility with some legacy systems. Recent theoretical work has shown that OMEs with non-methyl alkyl groups may have superior performance, albeit at the cost of increased soot formation. In this work, a variety of OMEs with terminating alkyl groups from methyl to butyl are considered for their suitability as CI fuels. The synthesis of these extended OMEs is studied, including formation of n=1 OMEs from common chemical sources, and extension of the chain length to heavier molecules, via reactions over acidic ion exchange resins. Following the synthesis, the properties of these OMEs are studied with respect to their engine applicability. It is found that heavier (propyl- and butyl-terminated) OMEs have superior properties for diesel compatibility, particularly in reactivity, volatility, and water solubility. Extended-alkyl OMEs are found to have higher soot production than methyl-terminated OMEs, but remain superior to diesel soot production on a per-unit-energy basis. A sample of a butyl-terminated OME mixture, n=2-4, is selected as the ideal OME blend for close compatibility with legacy diesel systems. This mixture is blended with certified diesel and tested for ASTM D975 compatibility, passing all required tests but lubricity; decreased heat of combustion is observed but not governed by the diesel standard. Fundamental combustion tests of various mid-weight OMEs are performed in a rapid compression machine, where it is shown that low-temperature chemistry causes a region of decreased dependence of ignition delay on temperature, consistent with methyl-terminated OME behavior. An isopropyl-terminated OME is observed to have low reactivity compared to other OMEs; this fuel is investigated via further rapid compression machine testing and CFR engine testing. It is found that this OME has strong negative-temperature-coefficient ignition behavior - a first for OMEs - and has reactivity lower than other OMEs, but insufficient for direct spark ignition engine testing.


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compression ignition
oxymethylene ether
emissions reduction
alternative fuel


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