Nanofuels: Combustion, engine performance and emissions

Rakhi N. Mehta
a,b
, Mousumi Chakraborty
b,⇑
, Parimal A. Parikh
b,⇑
a
Chemical Engineering Department, Sarvajanik College of Engineering and Technology, Surat 395 001, India
b
Chemical Engineering Department, S.V. National Institute of Technology, Surat 395 007, India
h i g h l i g h t s
Stable suspensions of nano-particles of Al, Fe and B in diesel were used as fuels.
These fuels showed reduced ignition delay, and longer flame sustenance.
Specific fuel consumption reduced by 7% with nanoparticle modified fuels.
Emissions of CO and hydrocarbons reduced, however NO
x
marginally increased.
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 7 March 2013
Received in revised form 4 December 2013
Accepted 5 December 2013
Available online 18 December 2013
Keywords:
Nanofuel
Engine performance
Emissions
Burning characteristics
Ignition delay
a b s t r a c t
Experimental investigation was carried out to study the burning characteristics, engine performance and
emission parameters of a single-cylinder Compression Ignition (CI) engine using nanofuels which were
formulated by sonicating nanoparticles of aluminum (A
1
), iron (F
1
) and boron (B
1
) in base diesel. These
fuels showed reduced ignition delay, longer flame sustenance and agglomerate ignition. Study of engine
performance at higher loads revealed drop in peak cylinder pressures and reduction of 7% in specific fuel
consumption for A
1
as compared to diesel. Improved combustion rates raised exhaust gas temperatures
by 8%, 7% and 5% leading to increased brake thermal efficiencies by 9%, 4%, and 2% for A
1
, F
1
, and B
1
respectively, as compared to diesel at maximum loading conditions. Volumetric reduction of 25–40%
in CO emission, 8% and 4% in hydrocarbon emission was measured when the engine was fueled with
A
1
and F
1
respectively as compared to emissions from diesel. However, elevated temperatures resulted
into marginal rise in NO
x
emission.
Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Application of nanoscale energetic metal particle additives in li-
quid fuel is an interesting concept yet unexplored to its full poten-
tial. Such formulated nanofuels offer: shortened ignition delay,
decreased burn times and rapid oxidation which leads to complete
combustion [1–3]. Overall calorific value of the liquid fuel in-
creases due to higher energy density of metal particles, eventually
improving the performance of engine by boosting power output.
The study of evaporation rate and ignition probability plays an
important role in determining two critical properties: ignition de-
lay and ignition temperature which characterizes the performance
of a diesel engine and are also instrumental in curtailing emissions
[4]. Reports have shown that fuels blended with nanoparticles of
aluminum, boron or carbon particles enhance ignition probability
at lower temperatures as compared to diesel and initiate combus-
tion thereby reducing ignition delay [5–8]. A crucial phenomenon
involved in improving the combustion rate of the nanoparticle
blended fuels is the disruption/microexplosion behavior of the fuel
droplets and was first discovered by Takahashi et al. [9] for slurries
of boron/JP-10. This behavior was also evidenced by a few other
studies involving aluminum, boron, iron and carbon slurries [10–
13]. In order to ensure the feasibility of these derived fuels as com-
mercial substitutes of conventional fuels, they were tested in diesel
engine. Cited studies have shown reduced brake specific fuel con-
sumption, smoke and NO
x
formation with combustion of Al-nano-
fluid in Compression Ignition (CI) engine [14,15]. Aluminum
nanopowder when blended with water/diesel emulsion fuel reacts
with water at higher temperatures and generates hydrogen which
promotes combustion in engine chamber [16].
Present investigation is focused on incorporating energetic me-
tal nanoparticles of aluminum, iron and boron in petro-diesel as
additives to accelerate combustion rates, reduce ignition delay,
and boost calorific values. Engine performance, emissions and
combustion attributes of CI engine also have been studied. The
ensuing section aims to (i) determine the evaporation rates and
ignition probability of the formulated and stabilized nanofuels
(ii) study different combustion stages to explore the burning
mechanism of the nanofuel droplets, (iii) study performance char-
acteristics of single-cylinder four-strokes Compression Ignition
0016-2361/$ - see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fuel.2013.12.008

Corresponding authors. Tel.: +91 2612201644; fax: +91 2612227334
(P.A. Parikh).
E-mail address: parimal.svr@gmail.com (P.A. Parikh).
Fuel 120 (2014) 91–97
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Fuel
j our nal homepage: www. el sevi er . com/ l ocat e/ f uel
engine with nanofuels and compare them with diesel and (iv)
examine emissions and soot produced to investigate their environ-
mental impact.
2. Experimental methods
2.1. Fuel formulation
Stable and homogeneous suspension of iron, aluminum and
boron (Nanoshel LLC, USA) in base diesel was made using ultrason-
ication (Sonics Vibra cell-USA, 750 W, 20 kHz) for 15 min, and
addition of the surfactant Span80

(Qualigen Chemicals, Mumbai,
India). The most stable nanofuels with maximum particle loading
were selected on the basis of backscattering profiles (Turbiscan
classic MA 2000 (Formulaction, France). Compositions of the fuels
was nanoparticles (n-Fe, n-Al or n-B) 0.5 wt%, Span80 (0.1 wt%) and
rest diesel. Physical properties of nanoparticles (Nanoshel LLC,
USA) and nomenclature of selected stable nanofuels are given in
Table 1.
2.2. Droplet combustion experiment setup
Fig. 1 shows a schematic diagram of the droplet combustion
experiment. Experiments were performed in a Zahabi make muffle
furnace (microprocessor based temperature indicator cum control-
ler) with heating range up to 1000 °C. Droplet of formulated fuels
was made to fall with micropipette (dropper) on a small stainless
steel plate placed inside the furnace where droplets ignited in air
at atmospheric pressure. Sequence of droplet formation and its
burning process was captured with a high-speed digital camera
(NIKON D3X with a speed of ISO-600 at a resolution of 164–
164 dpi). The camera was kept just in front for imaging the flame
and droplet disruption. Front and side light arrangements were
made using halogen lamps. A computer was synchronized with
the high-speed digital camera to ensure the recording of droplet
disruption photographs.
2.3. Compression Ignition engine test setup
Engine performance was studied on a single-cylinder, four-
stroke, constant speed (1500 rpm) direct injection diesel engine
(Table 2). In order to determine the engine torque, test engine
was coupled to eddy current type dynamometer. Setup also com-
prised of necessary instruments for combustion pressure and
crank-angle measurements which were interpreted to generate
P–h diagrams. The stand-alone panel box of test setup consisted
of air box, fuel tank, manometer, fuel measuring unit, transmitters
for air and fuel flow measurements, process indicator and engine
Table 1
Physical properties of nano-particles and nomenclature of selected nanofuels.
Metal Particle size (nm)
a
Atomic mass (g/mol) Bulk density (g/cm
3
) Metal melting point (K) Oxide formed Oxide melting point (K) Nomenclature
of nanofuels
Fe 30–60 55.845 7.87 1811 Fe
2
O
3
1839 F
1
Al 5–150 26.981 2.7 933 Al
2
O
3
2345 A
1
B 80–100 10.811 2.34 2349 B
2
O
3
723 B
1
a
Data provided by the supplier.
Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of the droplet combustion experiment setup.
92 R.N. Mehta et al. / Fuel 120 (2014) 91–97
indicator. The engine tests were performed initially with pure die-
sel at fully throttled and no-load conditions and then nanofuels
were fed one by one through a separate fuel feed line. Before run-
ning the engine to a new fuel, it was allowed to run for sufficient
time to consume remaining fuel from the previous experiment.
All the experiments were carried out by varying the loads at a con-
stant speed of 1500 rpm to evaluate the performance characteris-
tics such as specific fuel consumption (SFC), brake power (BP),
exhaust gas temperature, Air/Fuel ratios, brake thermal efficiency
(BTE), brake mean effective pressure (BMEP) and volumetric
efficiency. Labview based Engine Performance Analysis software
package ‘‘EnginesoftLV’’ was used for on line performance evalua-
tion. More than three runs of tests were performed under the iden-
tical conditions, and the repeatability of all result parameters was
found to be within 3%. Emissions of CO, NO
x
and HC were mea-
sured using an Exhaust Gas Analyzer AGS-688 (Table 2). Soot par-
ticles in exhaust gas were collected on wet Whatman filter paper
and analyzed for size through Digistar optical microscope (10Â,
230 V Halogen lamp).
3. Results and discussions
3.1. Droplet combustion mechanism
When drops of diesel and nanofuels were made to fall onto the
heated steel plate, the diesel present in samples vaporized soon
leaving behind oxide coated nanoparticles which were than ex-
posed to higher chamber temperatures. It was noted that above
700 °C, the oxide layer onto the metal surface of nanoparticles van-
ished thereby exposing the same to higher temperatures which
lead to various sequential combustion stages. Fig. 2 depicts a se-
quence of pure diesel droplet formation, disruption and ignition.
The drops first got segregated into smaller droplets, underwent
slow evaporation and burning which gave clean flame after igni-
tion within 1.2 s. Droplet flame extincted within 1.5 s leaving be-
hind globule of combustion residue. Fig. 3 illustrates different
combustion stages of A
1
and F
1
nanofuel droplets on the heated
(>700 °C) plate. Preheated drops first got vaporized into a vapor
cloud that ignited with clean flame. The nanoparticles that were
enveloped within diesel got exposed to flame temperatures after
its evaporation and probably a small amount ignited along with
diesel which rose quickly forming multiple flares resulting into
Table 2
Specifications of engine and exhaust gas analyzer.
Engine Kirloskar TV1
General details Four-stroke, CI, vertical, water cooled, single-cylinder
Bore  stroke 87.5 mm  110 mm
Compression ratio 17.5:1
Capacity 661 cc
Rated output 5.2 kW at 1500 rpm
Dynamo meter Eddy current, water cooled with loading unit
Piezo sensor Range 5000 PSI, with low noise cable
Crank angle sensor Resolution 1°, speed 5500 RPM with TDC pulse.
Temperature sensor Type RTD, PT100 and thermocouple, Type K
Load indicator Digital, range 0–50 kg, supply 230 V AC
Software ‘‘EnginesoftLV’’ Engine performance analysis software
Exhaust gas analyzer AGS-688
Parameters Range Accuracy
Oxygen (O
2
) 0–25 vol.% 0.1–0.2%
Carbonmonoxide (CO) 0–9.99 vol.% ±5% of reading
Hydrocarbon (HC) 0–10,000 ppm ±20 ppm
Carbondioxide (CO
2
) 0–19.9 vol.% ±0.3%
(i) Drop formation, 0 s
(iii) Droplet ruptures, 0.9 s
(vi) Droplet flame extinction, 1.5 s
(ii) Segregation, 0.5 s
(iii) Droplet vaporization, 1 s
(v) Ignition with clean flame, 1.2 s
Fig. 2. Diesel droplet formation and ignition mechanism.
R.N. Mehta et al. / Fuel 120 (2014) 91–97 93
flame disruption [12]. Due to building up of intense pressure inside
primary drops they swelled and eventually exploded into smaller
droplets and particle aggregates which ignited and burned forming
local flames (Fig. 3(iv)). This phenomenon of sudden fragmentation
of droplets was first explained as micro explosion by Law [17]
using the diffusion-limit model. Because of micro explosion the
drop surface becomes concentrated with less volatile, high boiling
component jacketing more volatile component and leads to the
homogenous nucleation with intense internal pressure build up
that causes fragmentation of the primary droplet [12]. This theory
explicates the disruption and micro explosion stages as could be
seen in Fig. 3(iii, iv). At the end of these stages, due to consumption
of entire liquid fuel, the flame dwindled and finally extincted leav-
ing behind agglomerates coated with un-burnt nanoparticles.
These agglomerate globules formed at the end of A
1
, F
1
combus-
tion, reignited (Fig. 3(viii)) thereby signifying augmented combus-
tion process however residue from diesel had not shown such
reignition. On examining the burning mechanism of B
1
it was
found that it followed all the initial burning stages as A
1
and F
1
ex-
cept microexplosion which further hindered reignition of residue
agglomerates. Experiments brought out the fact that the drops of
A
1
and F
1
not only ignited within 0.2 s but also the flame lasted
longer for 1.69 s. Vigorous flames underwent sudden collapsing
with multiple sparks like streaks emitted due to the burning of
nanoparticles. Nonetheless nanofuels showed shortened ignition
delay, longer flame sustenance, rapid oxidation and hence com-
plete combustion.
3.2. Combustion characteristics
Fig. 4 elucidates variation in cylinder pressure with change in
crank angle for different nanofuels and diesel. The peak cylinder
pressures at full load condition for A
1
, B
1
, F
1
and diesel were 55,
59, 60 and 62 bars, respectively. Reduction in peak cylinder pres-
sures was observed with nanofuels as compared to diesel. Nanofu-
els reduce the chemical delay period that exerts a great influence
on the combustion phenomena of Compression Ignition engine as
well as on the rate of pressure rise, because the longer the delay,
more rapid and higher pressure rise occur [18]. Decline in the peak
pressure is attributed to the fact that both physical and chemical
delays decrease with addition of nanoparticles. Thus the improved
ignition properties of energetic Al, Fe and B nanoparticles initiate
early combustion and thereby reduce peak pressures.
3.3. Engine performance characteristics
A
1
and B
1
showed marginal increase in fuel consumption as
compared to diesel at lower loads due to preheating and ignition
stages whereas F
1
showed almost same consumption as diesel.
Due to the slow burning mechanismas discussed earlier B
1
showed
(i) Droplet formation, 0 s
(iii) Flame disruption, 0.35 s (iv) Microexplosion, 1.2 s
(vii) n-Al agglomerate,1.73 s
(viii) n-Al/ n-Fe agglomerate ignition, 1.91 s
(ii) Preheating and Ignition, 0.2 s
(v) Steady flame, 1.55 (vi) Flame Extinction, 1.69 s
(ix) Combustion residue, 2.3 s
Fig. 3. Stages of n-Al/ n-Fe-Diesel droplet combustion.
94 R.N. Mehta et al. / Fuel 120 (2014) 91–97
reduction in fuel consumption at lower loads but eventually in-
creased with load as illustrated in Fig. 5. A drop of 7% in specific
fuel consumption was registered at higher loads when the engine
was fueled with A
1
as compared to diesel. Reduced ignition delay
and high calorific values of nanofuels further generate same inten-
sity of work with low consumption of fuel than diesel.
Fig. 6(a) shows the increase in exhaust gas temperatures (EGT)
of engine with load. It could be inferred from the figure that EGT
increases with load for both diesel as well as nanofuels, obviously
due to increase in the combustion temperature. EGT for A
1
was
found to be highest amongst all the nanofuels and diesel at higher
loads. The fragments of nanofuel droplets which are formed due to
microexplosion of primary droplet generate secondary local flames
which further increase chamber temperature. Rise in EGT at full
load conditions has been observed as 9%, 7% and 5% for A
1
, F
1
,
and B
1
respectively as compared to diesel. Variation of brake ther-
mal efficiency with load is shown in Fig. 6(b). All three nanofuels
exhibit better thermal efficiency throughout the load range how-
ever, A
1
affords the best performance. These results could be ex-
plained with the assistance of the burning characteristics and
increase in combustion temperature of the nanofuels. Addition of
nanoparticles not only enhances the calorific values but also pro-
motes complete combustion due to higher evaporation rates, re-
duced ignition delay, higher flame temperatures and prolonged
flame sustenance. All these factors support the full release of ther-
mal energy thereby leading to higher brake thermal efficiencies.
This phenomenon could have led to catalytic combustion, and in
turn enhanced the thermal efficiency of the diesel engine [19,20].
Enhancement of 9%, 4%, and 2% in BTE has been observed at higher
loads for A
1
, F
1
and B
1
nanofuels respectively, as compared to
diesel.
3.4. Emission studies
Exhaust gas from CI engine was tested for emissions of regu-
lated parameters at varying load conditions. Fig. 7(a) shows the
concentration of the carbonmonoxide (CO, vol.%) as a function of
engine load. A
1
and F
1
nanofuels showed an average increase of
30% as compared to diesel at lower loads. This may be due to
fuel-rich operating conditions, where the amount of un-burnt
gases becomes more substantial due to lower A/F ratio and insuffi-
cient oxygen, resulting in incomplete combustion [4]. Whereas at
higher loads mass of fuel injected is about 5% of the mass of air
in the cylinder, hence promoting fuel-lean combustion and CO
emission reduces by 25–40% as compared to diesel. However B
1
showed almost same trend in CO emission as that of diesel. Pro-
duction of hydrocarbons (HC) has been elucidated in Fig. 7(b). Dur-
ing the preheating stage at lower loads, atomized fuel vaporizes
and mixes with air, yet is not fully distributed hence the emission
of HC is higher. Second stage of combustion promotes microexplo-
sion of nanofuels droplets and leads to rise in cylinder pressure and
temperature. Such conditions accelerate oxidation reactions lead-
ing to controlled combustion when two third of fuel burns fol-
lowed by complete consumption during effective burning stage
leaving behind 2–3% of un-burnt HC [21]. Fuel-lean combustion
at maximum loads leads to a drop of 8% and 4% in hydrocarbon
emission with A
1
and F
1
nanofuels respectively, as compared to
diesel. Fig. 7(c) depicts NO
x
concentration as a function of load.
NO
x
emission increased at higher loads when engine was fueled
with nanofuels. It could be argued that at the higher loads, burning
S
F
C

(
k
g
/
k
w
h
)


Load (kg)
Diesel A1 B1 F1
Fig. 5. Specific fuel consumption of nanofuels with reference to diesel.
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
350
0 5 10 15 20
E
x
h
a
u
s
t

g
a
s

t
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
o
C
)


Load (kg)
Diesel
A1
F1
B1
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
0 5 10 15 20
B
r
a
k
e

T
h
e
r
m
a
l

E
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
c
y

%
Load (kg)
Diesel
A1
B1
F1
(a) (b)
Fig. 6. (a) Exhaust gas temperature (EGT) and (b) brake thermal efficiency vs. load.
C
y
l
i
n
d
e
r

P
r
e
s
s
u
r
e

(
b
a
r
)
Crank Angle (deg)
θ Curve
A1
Diesel
F1
B1
Fig. 4. Variation of cylinder peak pressure for different nanofuels.
R.N. Mehta et al. / Fuel 120 (2014) 91–97 95
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
0 5 10 15 20
H
C

(
p
p
m
)
Load (kg)
Diesel A1 B1 F1
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
0 5 10 15 20
N
O
x

(
p
p
m
)
Load (kg)
Diesel A1 B1 F1
0
0.005
0.01
0.015
0.02
0.025
0.03
0.035
0.04
0.045
0.05
0 5 10 15 20
C
O

(
v
o
l

%
)
Load (kg)
Diesel A1 B1 F1
(a)
(b)
(c)
Fig. 7. (a) CO (vol.%).(b) HC (ppm).(c) NO
x
(ppm) in exhaust gas.
Fig. 8. Soot formation from (a) F
1
(b) B
1
(c) A
1
(d) diesel.
96 R.N. Mehta et al. / Fuel 120 (2014) 91–97
temperatures in the combustion chamber increases with load and
facilitates NO
x
emissions according to Zeldovich thermal mecha-
nism [22]. An increase of 5% and 3% was observed in NO
x
emission
with A
1
and F
1
as compared to diesel and B
1
nanofuels. In order to
check the amount of soot produced at the end of combustion, a wet
Whatman (grade 44, 3 lm) filter paper was held in front of the ex-
haust pipe at maximum load for 1 min to collect the soot particles
and was observed under the microscope. Though particle numbers
were not counted, an approximate increase in weight by 12%, 9%,
and 8% was observed for F
1
, B
1
and A
1
nanofuels, respectively as
compared to diesel (Fig. 8). Some un-burnt metal particles might
have contributed in increasing the weight of Whatman paper used
to capture the soot particles.
4. Conclusions
Nanofuels A
1
, B
1
and F
1
showed increased evaporation rates
with early ignition at 0.2 s as compared to diesel (1.2 s), suggesting
reduced ignition delay. On ignition of A
1
and F
1
droplets, flame sus-
tained for longer period of time followed by ignition of agglomer-
ates coated with un-burnt nanoparticles which was not observed
during the burning of diesel and B
1
droplets. Peak cylinder pres-
sures decreased at full load conditions and were registered as 55,
59, 60 and 62 bars for A
1
, B
1
, F
1
and diesel respectively. Engine per-
formance parameter study revealed a noticeable reduction of 7% in
specific fuel consumption with A
1
in comparison to diesel for gen-
erating equivalent brake power. Exhaust gas temperatures of A
1
, F
1
,
and B
1
rose by 9%, 7% and 5% respectively, resulting into increase in
brake thermal efficiencies by 9%, 4%, and 2% as compared to diesel
at higher loads. At same loads, the emission study showed a de-
cline of 25–40% in CO (vol.%), along with a drop of 8% and 4% in
hydrocarbon emissions for A
1
and F
1
nanofuels respectively. Due
to elevated temperatures a hike of 5% and 3% was observed in
NO
x
emission with A
1
and F
1.
Acknowledgements
Authors thank Dr. P.V. Bhale, Mechanical Engineering Depart-
ment, SVNIT, Surat for kindly extending their facilities for some
of the tests and meaningful discussions.
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