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Name: Edie Knapp
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Question:
Gasoline is 85% carbon by weight and when gas burns (by combining with oxygen) the carbon dioxide released weighs nearly four times as much as the carbon alone We also know that in one year's time, a car can emit its own weight in carbon into the atmosphere. Is it possible to produce new formulas of gasoline that have less carbon and more hydrogen that could be used in cars currently being driven?



Replies:
The methane series includes heptane and octane, the main ingredients of gasoline. All molecules in the methane series contain 2n+2 hydrogen atoms for every n carbon atoms. Therefore, blends containing higher proportions of octane (n = 8) have a lower ratio of hydrogen to carbon. Manufacturers are considering blending methanol (derived from coal) with gasoline but I am not sure such blends would produce less CO-2. The government has much research going on in this area right now. You can read more about it in the following references:

1) "Alternative Fuels in Transportation" 1992, Society of Automotive Engineers
2) "Moving America to Methanol", 1985 by Charles Gray
3) "Assessment of Cost and Benefits of Flexible and Alternative Fuel Use in the US Transportation sector" 1991 by US Department of Energy Office of Policy Planning and Budget Analysis.
4) "Emissions and Fuel-Economy of DOE Flex-Fuel Vehicles", 1992 by US Environmental Protection Agency.

You can also try asking your question in the engineering section and the chemistry section of "Ask-A-Scientist".

Another approach would be to switch over to hydrogen completely and leave carbon out of the equation.

Mortis



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