Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Yale University have discovered how to make jet fuel more environmentally friendly using the active ingredient in nail polish remover and paint thinner.
The researchers created an acetone-based additive, derived from plants, that can be added to conventional jet fuel to improve engine performance while lowering emissions. In a study, conventional fuel blended with up to 30% of this additive led to better engine performance than petroleum-based fuel alone. The findings were published online in December by Sustainable Energy and Fuels; the print version is scheduled for publication this year.
Acetone in its most familiar form is too volatile to be used as fuel, due to the risk of engine corrosion. So the researchers condensed the acetone and exposed the resulting liquid to an ultraviolet lamp to create a compound called cyclobutane that is appropriate for use in jet fuel.
While many processes used to make renewable fuels generate carbon dioxide, the LANL process offers a cleaner alternative. The next step is to see if the conversion process can be achieved using sunlight instead of an ultraviolet lamp.