Researchers at Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories in California say a better understanding of the key elements of biofuel combustion will be important in developing the next generation of alternative fuels.
Sandia researcher Nils Hansen and Lawrence Livermore scientist Charles Westbrook lay out the diverse and complex chemical reactions of biofuel combustion in a paper published in the May 10 edition of the journal Angewandte Chemie.
Hansen and Westbrook point out that while bioethanol, biobutanol and biodiesel are gaining interest as alternatives to oil-based transportation fuels, little research has been done on what happens in biofuel combustion.
In their paper, the pair examine, for the first time, the characteristic aspects of the chemical pathways in the combustion of potential biofuels.
With funding from the U.S. Energy Department, the researchers, along with colleagues in Germany, China and the United States, used a combination of laser spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and flame chemistry modeling to explore the decomposition and oxidation mechanisms of certain biofuels, and the formation of harmful or toxic emissions.
"To understand the associated combustion reactions and to identify recurring reaction patterns, it is important to study prototypical variants of potential biofuels," Westbrook said.