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Octane rating or octane number is a standard measure


of the performance of a motor or aviation fuel. The higher
the octane number, the more compression the fuel can
withstand before detonating. In broad terms, fuels with a
higher octane rating are used in high-compression engines
that generally have higher performance. In contrast, fuels
with lower octane numbers (but higher cetane numbers)
are ideal for diesel engines. Use of gasoline with lower
octane numbers may lead to the problem of engine
knocking.[1]
Principles
Octanes are a family of hydrocarbon that are typical
components of gasoline. They are colourless liquids that
boil around 125 C (260 F). One member of the octane
family, isooctane, is used as a reference standard to
benchmark the tendency of gasoline/petrol or LPG fuels to
resist self-igniting. Self-ignition leads to inefficiencies (or
even engine damage) if it occurs during compression prior
to the desired position of the piston in the cylinder as
appropriate for valve and ignition timing. The problem of
premature ignition is referred to as pre-ignition and also as
engine knock, which is a sound that is made when the fuel
ignites too early in the compression stroke.
Severe knock causes severe engine damage, such as
broken connecting rods, melted pistons, melted or broken
valves and other components. The octane rating is a
measure of how likely a gasoline or liquid petroleum fuel is
to self ignite. The higher the number, the less likely an
engine is to pre-ignite and suffer damage.
Isooctane (upper) has an octane rating of 100 whereas nheptane has an octane rating of 0.
The most typically used engine management systems
found in automobiles today have a knock sensor that
monitors if knock is being produced by the fuel being
used. In modern computer controlled engines, the ignition
timing will be automatically altered by the fuel

management system to reduce the pre-ignition to an


acceptable level.

The octane rating of gasoline is measured in a test engine


and is defined by comparison with the mixture of 2,2,4trimethylpentane (iso-octane) and heptane that would
have the same anti-knocking capacity as the fuel under
test: the percentage, by volume, of 2,2,4-trimethylpentane
in that mixture is the octane number of the fuel. For
example, petrol with the same knocking characteristics as
a mixture of 90% iso-octane and 10% heptane would have
an octane rating of 90.[2] A rating of 90 does not mean that
the petrol contains just iso-octane and heptane in these
proportions, but that it has the same detonation resistance
properties. Because some fuels are more knock-resistant
than iso-octane, the definition has been extended to allow
for octane numbers greater than 100.
Octane ratings are not indicators of the energy content of
fuels. (See section 4 of this page and heating value). It is
only a measure of the fuel's tendency to burn in a
controlled manner, rather than exploding in an
uncontrolled manner. Where the octane number is raised
by blending in ethanol, energy content per volume is
reduced. Ethanol BTUs can be compared with gasoline
BTUs in heat of combustion tables.
it is possible for a fuel to have a Research Octane Number
(RON) more than 100, because ISO-octane is not the most
knock-resistant substance available. Racing fuels, avgas,
LPG and alcohol fuels such as methanol may have octane
ratings of 110 or significantly higher. Typical "octane
booster" gasoline
additives include MTBE, ETBE, isooctane andtoluene. Lead
in the form of tetraethyllead was once a common additive,
but its use for fuels for road vehicles has been
progressively phased-out worldwide, beginning in the
1970s.[3]
Measurement method

Research Octane Number (RON)

The most common type of octane rating worldwide is


the Research Octane Number (RON). RON is
determined by running the fuel in a test engine with a
variable compression ratio under controlled conditions,
and comparing the results with those for mixtures of isooctane and n-heptane.
Motor Octane Number (MON)
There is another type of octane rating, called Motor
Octane Number (MON), or the aviation lean octane
rating, which is a better measure of how the fuel behaves
when under load, as it is determined at 900 rpm engine
speed, instead of the 600 rpm for RON.[1] MON testing uses
a similar test engine to that used in RON testing, but with
a preheated fuel mixture, higher engine speed, and
variable ignition timingto further stress the fuel's knock
resistance. Depending on the composition of the fuel, the
MON of a modern gasoline will be about 8 to 10 points
lower than the RON, however there is no direct link
between RON and MON. Normally, fuel specifications
require both a minimum RON and a minimum MON
Anti-Knock Index (AKI)
In most countries, including Australia and all of those in
Europe, the "headline" octane rating shown on the pump
is the RON, but in Canada, the United States, Brazil, and
some other countries, the headline number is the average
of the RON and the MON, called the Anti-Knock
Index (AKI, and often written on pumps as (R+M)/2). It
may also sometimes be called the Pump Octane
Number (PON).
Difference between RON and AKI
Because of the 8 to 10 point difference noted above, the
octane rating shown in Canada and the United States is 4
to 5 points lower than the rating shown elsewhere in the
world for the same fuel. See the table in the following
section for a comparison.

Observed Road Octane Number (RdON)

The final type of octane rating, called Observed Road


Octane Number (RdON), is derived from testing
gasolines in real world multi-cylinder engines, normally at
wide open throttle. It was developed in the 1920s and is
still reliable today. The original testing was done in cars on
the road but as technology developed the testing was
moved to chassis dynamometers with environmental
controls to improve consistency.[4]
Effects
Higher octane ratings correlate to higher activation
energies: This being the amount of applied energy
required to initiate combustion. Since higher octane fuels
have higher activation energy requirements, it is less likely
that a given compression will cause uncontrolled ignition,
otherwise known as autoignition or detonation.
The compression ratio is directly related to power and to
thermodynamic efficiency of an internal combustion
engine (see Otto-cycle). Engines with higher compression
ratios develop more area under the Otto-Cycle curve, thus
they extract more energy from a given quantity of fuel.
During the compression stroke of an internal combustion
engine, as the air / fuels mix is compressed its
temperature rises (PV=nRT).
A fuel with a higher octane rating is less prone to autoignition and can withstand a greater rise in temperature
during the compression stroke of an internal combustion
engine without auto-igniting, thus allowing more power to
be extracted from the Otto-Cycle.
If during the compression stroke the air / fuel mix reaches
a temperature greater than the auto-ignition temperature
of the fuel, the fuel self or auto-ignites. When auto-ignition
occurs (before the piston reaches the top of its travel) the
up-rising piston is then attempting to squeeze the rapidly
heating fuel charge. This will usually destroy an engine
quickly if allowed to continue.

There are two types of induction systems on internal


combustion engines: Normally aspirated engine (air is
sucked in using the engine's pistons), or forced induction
engines (see supercharged or turbocharged engines).
In the case of the normally aspirated engine, at the start
of the compression stroke the cylinder air / fuel volume is
very low, this translates into a low starting pressure. As
the piston travels upward, a compression ratio of 10:1 in a
normally aspirated engine will most likely not start autoignition. But 11:1 may. In a forced induction engine where
at the start of the compression stroke the cylinder
pressure is already raised (having a greater volume of air /
fuel) Exp. 2 Bar (14.7Psi), the starting pressure or air / fuel
volume would be 2 times that of the normally aspirated
engine. This would translate into an effective compression
ratio of 20:1 vs. 10:1 for the normally aspirated. This is
why many forced induction engines have compression
ratios in the 8:1 range.
Many high-performance engines are designed to operate
with a high maximum compression, and thus demand
fuels of higher octane. A common misconception is that
power output or fuel efficiency can be improved by
burning fuel of higher octane than that specified by the
engine manufacturer. The power output of an engine
depends in part on the energy density of the fuel being
burnt. Fuels of different octane ratings may have similar
densities, but because switching to a higher octane fuel
does not add more hydrocarbon content or oxygen, the
engine cannot develop more power.
However, burning fuel with a lower octane rating than that
for which the engine is designed often results in a
reduction of power output and efficiency. Many modern
engines are equipped with a knock sensor (a
small piezoelectric microphone), which sends a signal to
the engine control unit, which in turn retards the ignition
timing when detonation is detected. Retarding the ignition
timing reduces the tendency of the fuel-air mixture to
detonate, but also reduces power output and fuel

efficiency. Because of this, under conditions of high load


and high temperature, a given engine may have a more
consistent power output with a higher octane fuel, as such
fuels are less prone to detonation. Some modern high
performance engines are actually optimized for higher
than pump premium (93 AKI in the US). The 2001 - 2007
BMW M3 with the S54 engine is one such car. Car and
Driver magazine tested a car using a dynamometer, and
found that the power output increased as the AKI was
increased up to approximately 96 AKI.
Most fuel filling stations have two storage tanks (even
those offering 3 or 4 octane levels): those motorists who
purchase intermediate grade fuels are given a mixture of
higher and lower octane fuels. "Premium" grade is fuel of
higher octane, and the minimum grade sold is fuel of
lower octane. Purchasing 91 octane fuel (where offered)
simply means that more fuel of higher octane is blended
with commensurately less fuel of lower octane, than when
purchasing a lower grade. The detergents and other
additives in the fuel are often, but not always, identical.
The octane rating was developed by chemist Russell
Marker at the Ethyl Corporation in 1926. The selection
of n-heptane as the zero point of the scale was due to its
availability in high purity. Other isomers of heptane
produced from crude oil have greatly different ratings