Amide and Ester-Functionalized Humic Acid for Fuel Combustion Enhancement
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Humic acid is a class of naturally occurring molecules composed of large sheet-like regions of cyclic aromatic hydrocarbon networks with surface and edge functional groups including phenols, carboxylic acids, and epoxides. These naturally occurring molecules are found in brown coal deposits near lignite formations. Humic acid has gained attention from the scientific community as a precursor for graphene. Graphene is a 2-dimensional honeycomb structure of fully unsaturated carbon atoms that has exceptional material properties and inherent aromaticity. Graphene’s incredible properties are matched by the difficulty associated with reproducibly manufacturing it on a large scale. This issue has limited the use of graphene for commercial applications. The polar functional groups of humic acid contribute to the hydrophilic nature of the molecule, limiting its miscibility in any alkyl-based solvent. Surfactants containing long alkyl chains can affect the miscibility of the molecule in an organic solvent. Surfactants are often difficult to remove from the system. It is theorized that alkylation of the functional sites of humic acid can affect the hydrophilic nature of the molecule, and effectively enable its dispersion into organic solvents without simultaneous incorporation of surfactants. This dissertation investigated the amidation and esterification of humic acid molecules extracted from leonardite. The resulting change in the modified humic acid dispersibility in organic solvents and its potential usage as a fuel additive were evaluated.
Butyl, hexyl, octyl, and decyl amide-modified and ester-modified humic acids were synthesized. These products were characterized to confirm successful chemical reaction through thermogravimetric analysis, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy. The decyl-modified humic acids remained suspended in kerosene mixtures for longer than 1 week. Other organo-humic acids showed varying degrees of flocculation. The modified humic acid samples were diluted with kerosene to identify the influence on combustion properties. Butyl-modified humic acid samples decreased the molar enthalpy of combustion. Hexyl, octyl, and decyl-modified humic acids improved the combustion values. Decyl amide-modified humic acid showed the largest improvement of these mixtures with a 0.9% increase from the expected molar enthalpy of combustion with a loading percentage of 0.36% in kerosene. Octyl amide-modified and octyl ester-modified humic acid mixtures were prepared in 0.05, 0.1, and 1% loading percentage dilutions to study the effect of modified humic acid loading percent on combustion properties. The 0.1% dilution showed the largest increase of the expected molar enthalpy of combustion by 1.14% and 0.4% for amide-modified HA and ester-modified HA, respectively.