On the opposing effects of methanol and ethanol addition on PAH and soot formation in ethylene counterflow diffusion flames

Fuwu Yan, Lei Xu, Yu Wang, Sungwoo Park, Mani Sarathy, Suk Ho Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


An experimental and numerical analysis of the effects of methanol and ethanol addition on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and soot formation in non-premixed ethylene flames is reported here. Laser-induced incandescence (LII) and laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) techniques were used to measure soot volume fractions and relative PAH concentrations in counterflow diffusion flames, respectively. A comprehensive chemical kinetic analysis was performed by modeling soot with detailed gas-phase chemistry and a sectional method. The results showed that although both methanol and ethanol are typically regarded as clean fuels, their presence in ethylene diffusion flames had the opposite effects on PAH and soot formation. The LIF and LII signals decreased significantly as methanol fraction increased, suggesting a soot-inhibiting role for methanol. Apart from the fact that methanol addition reduced the carbon supply for soot thus having a fuel-dilution effect (methanol converted primarily to CO), the increased H2 concentration from methanol decomposition was seen to chemically suppress incipient benzene ring formation and subsequent PAH and soot growth processes. In contrast, a small amount of ethanol addition enhanced soot formation, which was well captured by the numerical model. Reaction pathway analysis showed that ethanol decomposition produced a relatively large amount of methyl radicals, enhancing the chemical interaction between CH3 and C2 species and, thereby promoting the formation of propargyl and C4 species. As a result, benzene formation was promoted through reactions between C2H2 and C4 species and via C3H3 recombination reaction, leading sequentially to the enhancement of PAH growth and soot formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-242
Number of pages15
JournalCombustion and Flame
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Ethanol
  • Ethylene counterflow diffusion flame
  • Methanol
  • PAH
  • Soot formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Fuel Technology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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