We feel like a broken record around here when we say "biodiesel is having a hard time." Yes, the biodiesel tax credit expired at the end of 2009. Yes, the EU has tariffed U.S. biodiesel off the continent. Yes, the economy has totally crunked, forcing many small biodiesel operators to shutter their doors.

Okay, enough bad news from the alternative diesel world. How about a sign of positive progress? Michael Boot, a doctoral student and researcher from Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (TU/e) in the Netherlands says he's invented a type of diesel fuel, or a diesel additive, that produces significantly less soot than petroleum diesel and even decreases soot emissions quite disproportionate to its ratio when blended with petroleum diesel. Want even better news? It can be made from what's widely considered to be a waste product.

The new blend, called Cyclox, burns slower than diesel, allowing oxygen to mix with the fuel longer and thus burn more completely. Cylcox is a diesel blend comprised of 10 percent of cyclohexanone ((CH2)5CO, a precursor of nylon) and 90 percent regular diesel. In tests conducted on an idling passenger car, Cylox produced 50 percent less soot emissions than pure petroleum diesel. That's right, just 10 percent cyclohexanone cuts soot emissions by 50 percent. More impressive is that at a 50/50 air-to-fuel ratio, the mixture produced zero soot. Zero. Perhaps the best news of all is that cyclohexanone can be made from lignin, a part of the cell walls of plants and trees. Paper factories, like the one pictured above, produces a lot of waste lignin. Cleaner diesel from a dirty industry's waste stream? Yes, please.

There are several obvious, unanswered questions. 1. How does a Cyclox 10/90 blend perform compared to 100 percent petroleum diesel or biodiesel as far as BTU, cetane and how do those numbers translate into torque and horsepower. 2. What about diesel's other dirty secret, NOx? A slower, colder burn could increase NOx emissions, a demerit on biodiesel's and WVO's otherwise green report card.

Young, Mr. Boot, who's only 30 years old, may be his generation's Rudolf Diesel. Not only has Boot invented a cleaner diesel fuel, he'd also come up with a new kind of diesel injector nozzle, the PFAMEN (Porous Fuel Air Mixing Enhancing Nozzle). Instead of the normal grouping of tiny holes in the end of an injector nozzle, Boot uses a filter as the tip of the injector. Boot says this atomizes the fuel much more effectively and efficiently, promoting better combustion and lowering injection pressures, reducing fuel consumption and, theoretically, allowing automakers to produce diesel injection systems that don't need to stand up to tens of thousands of pounds per square inch of pressure of modern systems. In other words, they can make cheaper, crappier injection pumps and injector nozzles that still perform well.

[Source: Treehugger, Green Car Congress, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven | Image: Christoper Craig]

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