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Coal-derived fuel burns cleaner

University Park, Pa. -- The chemical that replaced fluoro-chloro carbons in spray cans may also serve as a replacement utility fuel and may even substitute for diesel fuel in the future, according to Penn State researchers.

DME, dimethyl ether, is normally produced by dehydration of methanol, but DME production from natural gas and from coal derived syngas may open up this clean fuel for broader use, the researchers suggest.

In a study of the emissions produced when burning DME as a substitute for n-butane or propane published recently in Energy & Fuels, researchers found that DME had lower carbon monoxide emissions and the same or lower nitric oxide emissions than either of these commercially available fuels.

"In China and India, propane and butane are used in great quantities for utility purposes such as cooking," says Andre L. Boehman, director of the Penn State Combustion Laboratory and assistant professor of fuel science. "Switching to a fuel that generally has lower emissions and is coal derived could make cleaner fuel available from local resources."

The researchers, who also included Christopher Frye, Penn State graduate student in fuel science and Peter J. A. Tijm of Air Products and Chemicals, Allentown, Pa., found that in a series of tests, carbon monoxide emissions were lower when burning DME than for either butane or propane. They also found that in most cases nitric oxide emissions were lower, but that even in the worst case, nitric oxide emissions were no higher than when burning butane and propane.

"We concluded that in terms of its comparative carbon monoxide and nitric oxide emissions, DME is a viable alternative utility fuel," says Boehman.

With a favorable emission profile, Boehman is now investigating DME as a replacement fuel in diesel engines. While burning DME produces fewer emissions than burning diesel fuel, DME has very poor lubricating properties.

"Diesel
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Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer
aem1@psu.edu
814-865-481
Penn State
12-Oct-1999


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