Heat of Combustion in Biofuels

Introduce students to the concept of biofuels and explore how to create a computational model to calculate change in energy systems.

Grades 9-12 120 min Resource by:

How do biodiesels compare with their virgin source oils, traditional petro-diesel fuel, and kerosene with regard to their potential use as fuels? Students will consider this phenomenon, the diesel engine, and how it relates to their calorimeter apparatus as a thermal system.

Learning Objectives

  • Calculate the heat of combustion for different fuels.
  • Evaluate the efficacy of different hydrocarbon fuels.
  • Apply the first law of thermodynamics to different systems.

Though biofuels never gained the growth and popularity of diesel fuel, a late 20th-century resurgence in research has revived interest in biofuels and biodiesel engines. Students will consider this phenomenon, the diesel engine, and how it relates to their calorimeter apparatus as a thermal system while also seeking to answer the driving question, “How do biodiesels compare with their virgin source oils, traditional petro-diesel fuel, and kerosene with regard to their potential use as fuels?”

  • What is the purpose of a diesel engine, and how does it accomplish this function?
  • How do biodiesels compare with their virgin source oils, traditional petro-diesel fuel, and kerosene with regard to their potential use as fuels?

For Students

  • Have students attempt to alter the calorimeter apparatus to improve the quality of their data.
  • Have students research the other physical properties of the fuels they have evaluated. Then, have students update their claims regarding their potential efficacy.

For Teachers

Diesel engines can technically run on kerosene, but it lacks the lubricating capacities of diesel. Because of this, using kerosene in a diesel engine can cause damage to certain components. So, to address misconceptions, consider discussing this limitation with students and asking them to brainstorm the types of physical and chemical properties of substances that might factor into their potential as fuels.

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