Success Story

Sustainable fuels with performance

Rapid development of promising alternatives to fossil fuels as new technologies in mobility

Awareness of the need for sustainable forms of energy and the accompanying legal measures are leading to greater demand for alternative fuels for utilisation in modern vehicles, so-called “Future Fuelsˮ.

A combination of different fuel technologies is required for the rapid and demand-covering implementation of sustainable mobility and industry. In addition to alternative drives, in particular, synthetic fuels, drop-in fuels, and fuels and lubricants from waste resources contribute as new technologies significantly to a rapid energy turnaround in the field of mobility.

These new “Future Fuelsˮ can replace conventional fossil fuels in individual and heavy-duty transportation as well as in aviation and shipping.

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To ensure unproblematic application of alternative fuels, new concepts must be developed individually for each solution, starting on a laboratory scale followed by an evaluation in the field. Ideally, methods for evaluating potential fuel components and finished mixtures, the blends, should be reliable and, moreover, quick and inexpensive to perform.
Nevertheless, these methods must be close to reality regarding stability, deposit formation, interaction with existing and new additives as well as degradation products in fuels enabling flexible and quick acting in the development process. Thus, more complex tests are only carried out with the most promising blends.

For this purpose, a data mining approach was developed to extract important information and associations between lubricant chemistry and machinery performance. Chemical and tribometrical characterization of fresh, used and artificially altered engine oils were evaluated using multivariate statistical methods established in the field of chemometrics.

FTIR (Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) spectra were used to compare the condition of engine oils that were artificially altered in the laboratory with those of used engine oils collected from vehicles. This preliminary work revealed similarities and differences in the chemical composition of artificially altered and used engine oils, which were necessary to automatically find associations between the engine oils’ compositions and their tribological performance when applied in machinery. Next, empirical quantitative models were built from these associations to predict lubrication and machinery performance from oil condition.

R&D methodology for “Future Fuelsˮ

AC²T provides the necessary know-how, advanced analytical methods and application-oriented test equipment for the entire development chain of “Future Fuelsˮ. This includes, for example, the stability evaluation of fuels under load, during storage or in contact with typical materials. The assessment is supported by in-depth characterization, particularly by means of high-resolution mass spectrometry, to identify changes and component interactions at the molecular level and understand by what these are influenced. For analysis, we use tools such as Principal Component Analysis (PCA) or Python® to create mirror plots. These tools are used for visualization in order to efficiently evaluate the stability behavior depending on different fuel components. Furthermore, optimum additive concentrations of possibly required stability additives can be derived from this. It is possible to apply this development chain to all fuels (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel) and a wide variety of fuel components. The development of future fuels is thus supported starting from the idea up to the application.

Impacts and effects

Together with the project partners, the evaluation of a large number of potential new fuel components was obtained. This assessment includes stability, deposition tendency and interaction with other components. The findings were used to work out optimum additive components and concentrations for sustainable fuels with high performance. With the most promising blends, further relevant fuel properties such as cold behavior or long-term performance in a (hybrid) engine test rig (at the project partner) are evaluated. Thus, the presented R&D approach contributes to the sustainability goals of the UN, especially to “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure” and “Climate Change Action” of the “Agenda 2030”.

Three test fuels with improving stability (decrease in deposit formation from left to right); Photo: AC²T
Three test fuels with improving stability (decrease in deposit formation from left to right); Photo: AC²T

Project coordination (Story)

Dr. Marcella Frauscher, MSc. BSc.
Area Leader “Sustainable Lubricationˮ
AC2T research GmbH