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U. S.

Department of Commerce
National Bureau of Standards
Research Paper RP1913
Volume 41, August 1948
Part of the Journal of Research of the National Bureau of Standards
Effects of Substitute Fuels on Automotive Engines
By Clarence S. Bruce, Jesse T. Duck, and A. R. Pierce
Tests were made to determine the operat ing characteristics of automotive engines with
respect to cylinder wear, carbon deposi ts, life of accessories, and vapor lock. Fuels citcu-
lati ng t hrough standa rd type pumps for a period equivalent to 200,000 miles had no visible
effect on pump di aphragms. Cyli nder '.\ ear wit h various fuels was determined by an
opt ical instrument, t he McKee \vear gage. Wear is determi ned from changes in lengths
of indentations made in cylinder wa lls wi th a precisely shaped dia mond tool. The wear
with a lcohol IHIS about hal f t hat wi t h leaded gasoline. Car bon deposits also were much
lower. There was no indication of dil ution of cra nkcase oil by alcohol. The temperature
l imit . for operation wit hout vapor lock were establi shed for various blends of alcohol wit h
ether and with acetone.
I. Introduction
During the eady months of the war, transporta-
tion of essential gasoline supplies to our allies
became a serious problem. As enemy submarine
warfare became more and more aggr essive, petro-
leum r eserves in these countries dwindled. Opera-
tion of automo tive equipment with substi t ute
fuels became common. However , equipment de-
signed for usc with ga oline frequently r equired
modification befor e substitutes could be success-
fully used, and many operational difficulties were
In 1942 the National Bmeau of Standards began
a comprehensive study of the problems involved
in the use of substitute motor fuels. This investi-
gation was carried out at the r equest of t he Board
of Economic Warfare (later the Foreign E conomic
Administration) and included studies of the follow-
ing special problems : (1) Effects of variations in
compression ratios, (2) knock r atings, (3) power
and fuel consumption with standard type auto-
motive engines, (4) engine tests of gaseous fuels,
(5) the effects of mixtme distribution on engine
performance, (6) starting characteristics at low
temperatmes and at al titude, (7) fu el-pump life,
cylinder wear , and corrosion, and (8) vapor lock
wi th blends. The r esults of the first siX studies
[1 to 6] 1 listed above have been r eported in the
1 Figures in brackets indicate the literat ure releronees the eLld of t bis
Substitute Fuels Automotive Engines
Journal of Research of the Nat ional Bureau of
Standards. This r eport is t he last of t he series
and includes all phases of the work not cover ed by
the six earlier publications. The field t o be
investigated is very large, and some parts of i t
could not be completed in the t ime
Further study of the causes of cylinder wear and
methods of measuring it seem especially desirable.
The tes t r esul ts support the widely accepted theory
that much cylinder wear is due t o corrosion occur-
ring in low-temperatme operation. A brief sum-
mary of each of t he preceding papers follows:
RP1660 Single cylinder engine tests oj substitute motor
Juels.- Single-cylinder engine tests of non hydrocarbon
f uels and gasoline at fi xed compres ion rat io and at the
compression ratio for t race knock for each fuel show no
materi a l difference in performance other t han t hose asso-
ciated wi t h differences i n heats of combustion a nd of
vaporization. All of t he nonhydrocarboll fu els could be
used at compression r atios hi gher t han was permissible wit h
gasoline, wit h corresponding increases i n power and
t hermal effi ciency.
RP1673 Knock ratings oj gasoline substitutes .- Knoek
ratings of gaseous paraffins and olefins t hrough C, and of
carbon monoxide were determined by current mot or and
aviation test methods. Auxiliary apparatus and modifi ca-
tions of test engines necessar y to r ate gases are described.
Antiknock quali ties of ethyl and normal butyl alcohol,
and acetone, both alone and in blends were determined by
curren t motor fuel r ating procedures. Blendi ng char-
acteristics of t hese materials wi t h straight -r ull gasoline
and napht has were investigated.
The tests indi cated t hat blends cont aining up to 45-
percent diethyl ether in alcohol should give r elat ively