Speed News April 2016

Speed News Magazine - The Official Magazine of the National Auto Sport Association

Issue link: http://mag.speednewsmag.com/i/662179

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T E C H M A T T E R S GETTING THE RIGHT OCTANE RATING FOR YOUR TRACK CAR A lot of NASA HPDE drivers drive their cars to and from the track, and of those, there's probably a decent amount who change their engine settings between the street and track, particularly those with boosted applications. Cars that can be switched between maps for street and track driving often benefit from increased octane fuel, but race fuel is expensive, often incompatible with emissions control equipment, and octane boosters haven't always been up to the task of getting octane ratings greater than 100. To find out more about how octane boosters work and to learn the current state of the art, we caught up with Ian Lehn president of Boostane Octane Engineering. Lehn said there are lots of ways to boost octane in a fuel. In fact, some of them can be found in your local hardware store. Historically, manufacturers have increased octane in a few different ways: lead, Ferrocene and ethanol. Tetra-ethyl lead was developed in 1922 and has been used as an octane booster ever since. Piston- engine airplanes that flew at high altitude thrived on it. But it's lead. It's toxic. Just ask the people of Flint, Mich. One drop INCREASING OCTANE STORY BY BRET T BECKER IMAGES COURTESY OF BOOSTANE of tetra-ethyl lead in an open cut and it's lights out for you. "You add lead, you're going to add octane. That's the old- fashioned way. Some race fuels still do it that way," Lehn said. "Back in the day, it was Tetra-ethyl lead and it was beautiful. It shot holes in the ozone and it wasn't good to get on you but the fact of the matter is it added lubrication and it increased octane." Lead won't work with modern emissions control equipment. Some countries with lesser developed fuel infrastructures use Ferrocene, which contains iron that can oxygenate and cause corrosion. Another way you can get big octane numbers is by using E85 ethanol, but that can create problems of its own. For example, E85 often requires replacing fuel system components. E85 also is hydroscopic, which means it readily absorbs water, and even though E85 costs less than race fuel or even pump gas with an octane boosting additive, it contains about 30 percent fewer BTUs, so consumption rises commensurately. When Lehn and Boostane's business development manager Anthony Caputo were in college at Georgia Tech, the two were racing offshore powerboats. One of the challenges was finding fuel with enough octane for the twin supercharged big- block Chevrolet engines in their 46-foot catamaran. They also had to deal with transporting race fuel in 55-gallon drums and getting them down to the dock to refuel the boat. For their senior exit thesis, Lehn, who was an engineering major, used the labs he had access to at Georgia Tech to test a lot of the fuel additives that were on the market. They found that most of the products they tested either didn't work or were deleterious to the environment or fell out of solution and settled 22

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