Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) News

Fire Resistant Diesel Fuel

San Antonio, TX -- Sept. 20, 1979 -- The development of a fire-resistant diesel fuel, containing from five to 10 percent water stably suspended in the form of very small droplets, has been recognized as one of the 100 most significant new technology advances of the year.

The new hybrid fuel was chosen as a winner in the 1979 I-R 100 Competition sponsored by Industrial Research/Development, officials of the publication announced Thursday in Chicago.

The fuel was developed at the U.S. Army Fuels and Lubricants Research Laboratory, located at and staffed by Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), San Antonio. The activity is sponsored by the U.S. Army Mobility Equipment Research and Development Command (MERADCOM), Fort Belvoir, Va.

Its success depends on the well known fire extinguishing properties of water, said Dr. Weatherford, manager of the research group responsible for the development.

Co-investigators Dr. George E. Fodor and Bernard R. Wright, both senior research scientists on the staff of Southwest Research Institute, are other key members of the group.

Depending on the formulation specified, the fuel contains from five to 10 percent water, and from three to six percent of an emulsifying agent required to maintain the water in a stable dispersion.

Even though this fuel burns well when sprayed, as in a diesel engine, it extinguishes its own flames when a pool of the fuel is ignited. "Because of this self-extinguishing property, the fire-resistant fuel will prevent severe damage to personnel or equipment normally caused by prolonged burning of fuel after unwanted ignition," said F.W. Schaekel, MERADCOM project monitor.

"Because of this reduced fire vulnerability, the Army is initiating advanced development to provide this hybrid fuel to field units by the mid-1980's."

When a pool of this hybrid fuel is ignited, it extinguishes itself in less than 2 seconds even when the liquid is as much as 25 degrees F hotter than its ignition temperature.

"This fire protection is gained without unduly impairing the fuel's performance," Weatherford said. "Engine performance tests to date show that the combustion efficiency of the hybrid fuel is at least as good as that of regular diesel fuel. It performs well in standard diesel engines without modification."

The result of a 10-year Army-supported research effort, the new fuel offers promise of saving lives and improving survivability of combat vehicles in military operations, s well as reducing losses from fires in highway accidents and in off-highway diesel activities such as mining.

The U.S. government has title to the rights to this invention and has filed appropriate applications for patent.

The achievement of long-term stability in the water-in-fuel emulsion was aided by the dispersion of water throughout the fuel in the form of droplets so small they cannot be seen with ordinary light, leaving the liquid translucent. The emulsifying agents, obtained from commercial sources, were prepared by reacting diethanolamine with oleic acid.

For more information about Fire Resistant Diesel Fuel, contact Tracey M.S. Whelan, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas, 78228-0510, Phone (210) 522-2256, Fax (210) 522-3547.

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