Characterisation of semi-volatile hydrocarbon emissions from diesel engines

  • Amanda Mahlangu Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Paul Schaberg Sasol Energy, South Africa
  • Mark Wattrus Sasol Energy, South Africa
  • Patricia B.C. Forbes Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Keywords: Photochemical smog, hydrocarbons, ozone, diesel exhaust emissions, ozone formation potential, emission factor


Exhaust emissions from diesel vehicles have recently been receiving global attention, due to potential human health effects associated with exposure to emitted pollutants. In addition, a link has recently been established between unburnt hydrocarbon (HC) emissions from diesel engines and photochemical smog. Despite being present at very low concentrations in the exhaust, these HCs may act as precursors in the formation of photochemical smog pollution. While short-chain HCs are easier to characterise and have been successfully reduced in many developed cities, longer chain HCs, most likely arising from diesel exhaust emissions, have been poorly quantified and to date, a limited range of HCs from this source has been studied. In this study, transient cycle tests were conducted to collect exhaust emissions from a Euro 3 compliant, 1.6 L test engine fuelled with three diesel fuels (SAM10, PAR10, and EUR10), using portable denuder samplers which were analysed by thermal desorption-comprehensive 2D gas chromatography-time of flight mass spectrometry (TD-GC x GC-TofMS). The SAM10 diesel had the greatest n-alkane emissions with greater emissions observed in the earlier phases (low and medium phase) of the WLTC test cycle. PAR10 diesel had the second highest n-alkane emissions and EUR10 had the lowest n-alkane emissions amongst the three fuels. Substituted alkyl-benzenes were also detected in the gas phase emissions from each fuel. The results showed that long-chain HCs were present at easily detectable concentrations in diesel engine exhaust emissions, which is critical in understanding their contribution to photochemical ozone and informing appropriate mitigation and management strategies.

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Research Article