Cooking oils shown to improve engine performance

Engineers at Penn State University have shown that adding specially treated cooking oils to mandated low sulphur diesel fuels and engine lubricants reduces friction and wear.

Penn State engineers have shown that adding specially treated cooking oils, such as soybean, canola or sunflower oil, to mandated low sulphur diesel fuels and engine lubricants reduces friction and wear.

Dr. Joseph Perez, adjunct professor of chemical engineering and leader of the project, said, ‘Low sulphur diesel fuels mandated in California will soon be required in all states to enable diesel engines to meet the 2004 emission regulations. Removal of sulphur from the fuel causes severe wear problems in fuel injector systems.’

‘We’ve shown that adding as little as 10 percent of a specially-treated mixture of vegetable oil and fuel reduces both friction and wear,’ he said.

‘There has been concern that there might be an insufficient volume of vegetable oil to meet both food and fuel needs,’ Perez added. ‘However, our results show that when the vegetable oil-fuel mixture is oxygen-treated, you need only 2 percent vegetable oil to produce the same friction and wear performance as current high sulphur diesel fuel.’

The Penn State team has also conducted tests with four vegetable-based engine oils mixed with proprietary additives and compared them with commercial petroleum-based oil.

Although differences were found among the oils, all of the vegetable-based lubricants showed equivalent performance in laboratory tests and improvement in lubricity over the petroleum product.

The Penn State team also evaluated the role of particulate build-up on wear when new, extended use, non-vegetable diesel oils were used. The oils were run in diesel trucks and not changed for 75,000 to 100,000 miles. Make-up oil was added as required.

‘Current diesel engine emission regulations require significant reductions of particulate material and nitrogen oxides,’ Perez noted ‘To meet these regulations, many engines use cooled exhaust gas recirculation systems, which force 5 to 15 percent of the exhaust back through an intercooler and into the intake air.

‘Although beneficial to the reduction of regulated emission, the system places severe stress on the lubricant since it must handle increased particulates, acidic components and water in the combustion zone from blowby past the piston rings.’

The team’s tests are said to have shown that wear increased with increasing mileage with the major contributor believed to be the particulate content of the crankcase oil.

‘To solve these problems and meet the next round of emission regulations in 2007 is a serious challenge to additive and lubricant manufacturers and may involve a quantum leap in additive technology,’ the team noted. ‘Renewable oils may play a significant role in the development of these future engine oils.’