New chemical mechanisms identified on road to cleaner, more efficient combustion | 3/8/2018 | Staff
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Sandia National Laboratories researchers have identified key chemical mechanisms for the first time that add to the fundamental knowledge of combustion chemistry and might lead to cleaner combustion in engines.

Sandia researcher Nils Hansen and former postdoctoral appointee Kai Moshammer focused on low-temperature oxidation of hydrocarbons and other alternative fuels. They identified key chemical intermediates, which are relevant for oxidation reactions at temperatures in the range of 400 to 600 K (260 to 620 degrees Fahrenheit). The chemical nature of the intermediates and their concentrations provides new details on the chemical processes involved in autoignition.

Autoignition - Process - Mixture - Theory - Set

Autoignition is a chemical process in which a fuel-air mixture spontaneously ignites. It is commonly explained by theory through a set of self-sustaining and accelerating chain-branching reactions. It is most important for understanding knock in spark-ignition engines.

Hansen and Moshammer were among a multi-institution team of researchers whose work was published in a paper titled, "Unraveling the structure and chemical mechanisms of highly oxygenated intermediates in oxidation of organic compounds." The researchers focused on deepening the insights into low-temperature oxidation chemistry of hydrocarbons and other alternative fuels.

Combustion - Engine - Today - Details - Chemistry

"We can run an internal combustion engine today without knowing the details of the chemistry," Hansen said. "However, this new knowledge provides new insights that should be targeted by new combustion models. It eventually should allow for the development of more clean and efficient combustion strategies in the future."

Hansen and Moshammer used molecular-beam mass spectrometry to discover the chemical intermediates. The molecular beam freezes the chemistry and can be compared to the German autobahn.

Beam - Molecules - Vacuum - Direction - Speed

"In the molecular beam, all the molecules are sucked into a vacuum to fly in the same direction and at the same speed, so there are no collisions just like on the autobahn," he said. "When we isolate the molecules this way, it allows us to separate them by...
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