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Grabner helps Ford Test Vehicles for World Markets

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Ford Motor Company uses analyzers from Grabner Instruments to help guarantee vehicle performance. Engineers at the Ford research and development center in Nanjing, China, rely on the MINISCAN IRXpert fuel analyzer from Grabner to assess the responses of engines under extreme operating conditions, including temperature, pressure and altitude.

Grabner Instruments, a subsidiary of AMETEK Inc., is a renowned manufacturer of petroleum testing equipment. It released the IROX, the first completely portable fuel analyser, in 1994. That instrument was succeeded by the MINISCAN IRXpert in 2011 and the MINISCAN IR Vision in 2017. 

The MINISCAN IR Vision fuel analyzer uses Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy to determine more than 100 components and properties of gasoline, jet and diesel fuels. The compact, versatile instrument weighs 12 kilograms and comes in a rugged carrying case. Its pre-loaded database includes more than 2000 fuels that have been measured in accordance with ASTM and EN standards worldwide. Thanks to its germanium-coated, potassium bromide (Ge/KBr) beam splitter, the MINISCAN IR Vision achieves excellent measuring precision. The beam splitter offers better optical transmission than splitters on other FTIR analyzers on the market that use zinc-selenide (ZnSe). The Grabner fuel analyzer’s optical resolution of 3.8 cm-1 also is better than that offered by many competing instruments.

The portability of Grabner's analyzers was a critical factor for the Ford Nanjing Test Center, which performs tests during product development. The center supports the development of vehicle models intended for the Asia-Pacific and African markets. 

Completely adaptable field tests are very important for China. Monitoring performance under different environmental conditions helps to ensure that a motor will behave the same way when used in cities, such as Turpan and Hainan that are known for scorching temperatures, or around Heihe and Qinghai Golmud that have milder weather. The engine performance is related to the composition of the fuel, which varies from one region to the other. Engines must be robust and capable of starting and running smoothly using different fuel blends.

The Asia-Pacific market presents additional challenges because the fuel standards it uses are local and unique. If cars are manufactured for Western countries, but are subsequently sold to China, differences in Chinese fuel composition may lead to problems with a motor's cylinders. Therefore, Ford's research at its Nanjing Test Center is analyzing the anti-knock rating of Chinese gasoline and diesel fuels. Typically, a high octane rating is preferred, because high octane fuels can handle higher compression before ignition. That helps to reduce the risk of prematurely igniting fuel in the motor by the heat of compression, rather than the spark from the spark plug. This pre-combustion generates both ultra-high temperature and pressure, which can cause failure of a motor's spark plug and cylinders. A high octane rating also increases acceleration and improves the engine's response, when operating on uneven terrain and uphill. Yet, a higher octane rating is not always better: If the octane rating is too high, gasoline is not fully combusted. Under optimal circumstances, fuel combustion results in lesser amounts of carbon residue and, consequently, less urban air pollution.

The measurement of benzene content in fuels is also highly important for automotive research. Benzene is toxic and carcinogenic and its content in fuels is strictly limited and closely monitored by regulators. The aromatic hydrocarbon increases octane rating, but also generates deposits in the combustion chamber, which can affect oxidation stability of the gasoline, lead to overheating of cylinders, motor vibrations, reduced enginer power and increased fuel consumption. 

Besides the Grabner MINISCAN FTIR fuel analyzer, the Ford Nanjing Test Center also uses Grabner's MINIVAP vapor pressure testers and MINIDIS ADXpert automatic distillation tester as part of its tool kit for fuel analysis and engine performance testing.