Spectro issues bio-fuel caution

01 February 2008

Although bio-fuels produce little damaging emissions, according to Spectro, they must be monitored to check they do not contain harmful substances such as sulphur or phosphorus.

Bio-fuels may be the fuel of the future but care must be taken to ensure they are free from damaging substances
Bio-fuels may be the fuel of the future but care must be taken to ensure they are free from damaging substances

A member of Ametek materials analysis division, Spectro has pinpointed bio-fuels as an important ecological alternative to gasoline and diesel.

The analytical technology supplier has developed new applications for the elemental analysis of bio-fuels that are now available for the Spectro Phoenix II and iQ II XRF instruments and for the Spectro Genesis and Spectro Arcos ICP-OES instruments.

Spectro also offers an information package for analysing bio-fuels on its website. The company also offers an online brochure that details information dealing with current fuel legislation.

“Within the framework of climate protection, bio-fuels are receiving a great deal of attention as well as political backing,” said Dirk Wissmann, product manager for X-ray fluorescence analysis at Spectro.

“In many industrial nations, laws facilitating the use of alternatives to gasoline and diesel are under construction or already in place.

“The European Union is leading the way: Their 2003/30/CE directive compels fuel manufacturers to increase the share of bio-fuels on the fuel market from today’s 2% to 5.75% by 2010”.

Spectro said before manufacturers or suppliers bring large amounts of bio-fuels onto the free-market, analytical procedures for the continuous monitoring of their contents need to be well defined. Bio-gasolines from sugar cane and bio-diesels from palm, rapeseed and coconut are considered to be ecologically harmless. Their bio-components contain no harmful materials, such as benzene and toluene, and produce little damaging emissions.

Although bio-gasolines are currently used as fuel extenders for upwards of 10% of regular fuels, these fuels may contain sulphur, an element for which strict limiting values in fuels are in effect worldwide that needs to be closely monitored. In addition, vegetable oils contain phosphorus in the form of phospholipids, which in higher concentrations may lead to the formation of abrasive products that can cause engine damage. High concentrations of alkali and alkaline earth elements, including sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, can also cause engine damage. For these reasons limiting values have been set for chlorine, copper and lead as well in bioethanol and bioethanol-gasoline mixtures.

The Spectro iQ II and Spectro Phoenix II XRF instruments are suited to measurement of sulfur content. The iQ II can also be used to screen for phosphorous, potassium, calcium, copper and lead. The Spectro Arcos and Genesis ICP-OES instruments are capable of monitoring relevant limiting values for all of the above.

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