1920-01-01

PENNSYLVANIA SECTION PAPER - ENGINEERING POSSIBILITIES AS INDICATED BY THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE 200082

The author views in perspective some facts from a purely scientific standpoint, and then shows their application to problems of the automotive industry. After reviewing the present facilities for measurement and the ability to make measurements of distances both infinitely small and large, as an aid toward a proper conception of the ultimate structure of matter, he applies this scientific knowledge in the direction of a solution of the fuel problem, which is a fundamental one because it involves the limitation of a natural resource.
From 1918 and 1919 statistics, the amount of gasoline produced was something like 20 to 25 per cent of the crude oil pumped; 8 to 10 per cent is kerosene and 50 per cent is gas and fuel oil and a residue carrying lubricating oil, paraffin and carbon. Kerosene demand and production are practically fixed quantities; gasoline demands are increasing. So, after utilizing 25 per cent for gasoline, the 8 to 10 per cent representing kerosene must be avoided and entry to the 50 per cent represented by the gas and fuel oil section must be made to get material with which to increase the amount of engine fuel. This is being done by the “cracking” process, by which about 33⅓ per cent of the total amount cracked becomes engine fuel, but this is an unsaturated compound and must be blended with normal fuel.
It would be possible to increase the engine fuel supply materially except that the lower-gravity fuels cause pounding in the engine, sometimes termed carbon knock and generally attributed to preignition but really due to a change in the fuel molecules. Carbon knock is entirely a function of the fuel. A carbon deposit acts as a blanket around the inside of the cylinder, so that the temperature rises and the molecules break down. This is overcome by lowering the engine compression, but this decreases efficiency.
It is possible to introduce certain compounds which will prevent the breaking-down of the fuel molecules. The chemical and fuel industries should make and put those compounds into the fuel, because we can today transfer in our distillation 50 per cent of the crude oil right over into engine fuel, by using compounds which will prevent its molecular distortion, and get better results than those given by normal gasoline under normal conditions, at least until fuel can be produced by entirely different methods. To get fuel distribution we try to vaporize it by heat, and this is exactly the wrong thing chemically. Analysis of many carbon samples shows 90 per cent heavy hydrocarbons, 5 per cent of hydrogen-oxygen-carbon content and 4 or 5 per cent precipitated lampblack. That hydrogen-oxygen-carbon content is of an acid nature and cements the other constituents to the cylinder walls, but organic alkalies will act upon it and aniline will dissolve 95 per cent. It is possible today to run engines on fuel heavier than kerosene, and to run them indefinitely and guarantee that there will never be any carbon deposit.

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