Hot Fuels For Fast Cars

by : Arthur T. Fellon

Men have been experimenting with weird fuel concoctions since man tamed fire. Even from the beginnings of fire it was obvious that the hotter fuel would give the best results. This more than translates the right fuel would mean top speeds for racing cars. After all the best burning fuel would give the faster camshafts to win the race. Eve with the technologically advanced fuels we still do not know what the upper limits of performance potential might be with the most potent fuels.

The conventional automotive piston engine was designed to run on straight gasoline fuels. The major problems in this case was to get sufficient fuel octane ratings to prevent excessive detonation , or knock , to prevent excessive detonation, Detonation of course is a sudden , uncontrolled explosion of the last part of the gas-oil mixture. This uncontrolled explosion of gas in your engine, not only reduces power, but can easily cause engine damage, breaking piston rings and even the pistons themselves. Simply put if you have enough octane to prevent detonation there is not much else that can be done to get additional power out of gasoline.

It is a different story when you are free to use fuels other than gasoline. These potent non gasoline fuels can boost the power in the engine in three general ways 1) They give you a much higher octane than you get with your conventional commercial gas that you buy at the pump 2) they can give you much more cooling effect when they evaporate in the manifold , which contracts the fuel-air charge so that your draws in a much greater of weight of mixture on each action stroke 3) by using fuels containing releasable oxygen you can get combustion without a corresponding amount of air prevent - which means that you can literally pour on the horsepower in your racing engine with as liquid fuel that can possibly be poured into your engine. The sky is the limit on the last trick. This is because it is much harder to get air in and out of a cylinder than it is liquid fuel, because of the large volume per pound of air/ anytime we can get some additional oxygen into the cylinder in high density liquid form, horsepower is bound to skyrocket. This in essence is the secret of Nitro fuels.

Among the more popular "hot fuels "are Methanol, Benzoil, Acetone and Nitromethane. Each of these "hot fuels "have its advantages and disadvantages as well as its groups of proponents and detractors.

Methanol is the chemical name for simple wood alcohol. Methanol has advantages that when used as a motor fuel it has an extremely high octane value. In addition methanol absorbs a great deal of heat when it evaporates in the manifold cooling down the front end of the engine - allowing for more concentrated fuel that is wonderful for horsepower. Methanol's disadvantage as a fuel are that it contains a lot less heat value per pound than gasoline , so miles per a gallon are about cut in half.

Benzoil or Benzene is a coal tar derivative, and weighs about 7.3 lbs. per gallon, whereas gasoline weighs about 6 lbs. Benzene's chief advantage lies in its very high heat value, for good tank mileage, with reasonable octane ratings.

Acetone is a solvent distilled from calcium acetate. Acetone has a very high octane rating (150 in a rich mixture). Acetone's main use is as a blending agent for mixing gasoline and alcohol. The ability of alcohol in dissolved gas falls off as the purity of the alcohol decreases. In addition the two will separate over time, if left alone.
So acetone is generally added in 5 to 10 % amounts to stabilize the alcohol / gasoline mixture. It works wonderfully well m and is not too expensive in these small amounts. Simply put blending blend gasoline and alcohol together is a good compromise between horsepower and tank mileage.

Lastly Nitromethane or "nitroparaffin" compounds contain a substantial amount of oxygen that is released in combustion so they are technically explosives. In simpler terms this means that you can burn nitro without a corresponding amount of air present - hence power can be increased up to point, by merely richening the fuel/ air ratio. Holy cow! Even though Nitro is fairly expensive, engines have to be set up exactly to handle the heat, mileage is not that great, and Nitro as well has an unwarranted safety concern. The biggest concern with Nitro is that the engine has to be set up exactly exactly right. Otherwise the engine can actually blow up on the first full throttle. In addition if the engine is not set up exactly the extra heat and pressure on the engine can make it difficult to maintain engines over time. Engines running on 90 % or more Nitromethane have shown more than twice as much horsepower as similar settings on gasoline. When blended with methanol power increases of 30 and 40 % are common.

In the end it's all about the boys and their toys. Those with these odd fuel concoctions are usually the winners in the race.