Octane Number – Rating of S.I. Engine Fuels

What is Octane Number? How rating of SI Engines (Spark ignition engines) is done using an octane number?

The hydrocarbon fuels used in spark ignition (S.I.) engine have a tendency to cause engine knock when the engine operating conditions become severe. The knocking tendency of a fuel in S. I. engines is generally expressed by its octane number. The percentage, by volume, of iso-octane in a mixture of iso-octane and normal heptane, which exactly matches the knocking intensity of a given fuel, in a standard engine, under given standard operating conditions, is termed as the octane number rating of that fuel. Thus, if a mixture of 50 percent iso-octane and 50 percent normal heptane matches the fuel under test, then this fuel is assigned an octane number rating of 50. If a fuel matches in knocking intensity a mixture of 75 percent iso-octane and 25 percent normal heptane, then this fuel would be assigned an octane number rating of 75. This octane number rating is an expression which indicates the ability of a fuel to resist knock in a spark ignition engine.

Since iso-octane is a very good anti-knock fuel, therefore it is assigned a rating of 100 octane number. On the other hand, normal heptane has a very poor anti-knock qualities, therefore, it is given a rating of zero octane number. These two fuels, i.e., iso-octane and normal heptane are known as primary reference fuels. It may be noted that higher the octane number rating of a fuel, the greater will be its resistance to knock and higher will be the compression ratio. Since the power output and specific fuel consumption are functions of compression ratio, therefore we may say that these are also functions of octane number rating. This fact indicates the extreme importance of the octane number rating in fuels for S. I. engines.

Note: The octane number of petrol, generally available, is 80 to 100.

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