The fuel contamination incident in Bangor, County Down attracted U.K’s media largely in 2015. Cars of the customers broke down and got damaged severely, due to the contaminated fuel bought from Tesco’s service station. BBC’s report regarding the issue stated that- “Tesco paid the claims of about £8m after more than 17,000 people filed claims against their vehicles, damaged by contaminated fuel last year in May.” Moreover, ASDA sent cheques to about 3,000 customers who collectively claimed £1.4m in compensation. In fact in some cases, traces of silicon were also found in the diesel taken from the affected cars. Emptying the fuel tanks and refilling 150 forecourts of Tesco after contamination incident, wasted tons of energy and fuel.
But is there a handy way of detecting and quantifying the concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which pollutes fuel?
There are various lengthy methods and procedures of sampling the fuel regularly that invests a large amount of time and man-force. But, think of a situation where there were portable devices at all the service stations that could test the fuel before buying it from the retailers? Detecting the contamination before filling the fuel tanks could actually reduce the contaminated fuel scams extensively, providing convenience and satisfaction to the customers.California-based EST Inc. provides one such portable device, a sensor technology that incorporates gas chromatography (GC) and Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) called the zNose®, which carries the capability of sampling fuel and detecting the contamination within a minute.
zNose® tests all the fuels like kerosene, gasoline, petrol, diesel, etc. and possesses varied unique features as follows:
1.Uses vaporized samples and headspace vapors above liquid samples.
2. Provides visual olfactory image, allowing operators to assess the chemical composition produced by any type of fuel’s chemical vapor and quickly detects the mixing of octanes and blended fuels.
3. Unlike other detectors, zNose® with its unique vapor analyzing technology detects almost every possible kind of threat from odors and chemicals in near real time.
4.With VaporPrint™, zNose® provides a significant graphical feature and possesses tunable specificity.
5.Learns to recognize the chemical signature of virtually any threat.
6. It is highly sensitive and can be operated within a wireless network using either Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth, or RF modems with ranges up to 30 meters.
Hence, with such utilitarian qualities, zNose® is a one-stop solution to fight the consequences, contaminated fuel creates.
A testing procedure was carried out using zNose®, where, diesel and gasoline samples from various service stations were taken and tested. zNose® differentiated between different octane blends and detected mixing of different octanes and adulteration using ultra-fast chromatograms and olfactory images called VaporPrints™. Here are a few VaporPrints™ images from the experiments.
The problem of fuel contamination is not only faced by service stations and general public, but also, air force, navy and aviation sector faces it. In 2009, the jet fuel of U.S Air force’s C-130 USAF was found contaminated with Fatty Acid Methyl Ester, a harmful component for engines. The Navy IG report also found that the Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) East discarded about 12,000 gallons of fuel in December, 2014, due to contamination. Hence, this contamination problem is very utterly serious and is faced by the all the countries globally. It even leads to many lethal incidents as contaminated fuel abrades the fuel system components, clogs fuel filters and leads to blockage of fuel supply to the engine, resulting in a plane crash. In 2005, a pilot died in a plane crash and Federal officials reported fuel contamination as the reason behind it. In fact, contaminated fuel caused serious problems on both engines of an Airbus A330, and forced the crew to initiate emergency landing at Hong Kong on April 13, 2010.
Hence, using EST Inc.’s zNose® to detect volatile organic compounds in fuels such as gasoline, diesel, petrol, etc. is rapid and easy. Its high volatility has made detection of chemical vapor in part-per-trillion range possible. Globally, for fuel stations, navy force, air force and aviation sector, this substantially utilitarian device with unique features is very useful. It has the capability of analyzing the impurities in fuel and rendering safe fuel to the customers which can make their journey by road, air or water smooth, safe and a happy one.