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Study of Emissions from Biodiesel Exhaust Reveals Need for Investigation of Effects of Fine Particulate Matter
Robin Nyström (left) and Christoffer Boman of Bio4Energy are checking the soot content of diesel exhaust by analysing what got caught in an emission filter. Photo by Bio4Energy.
Despite the European Union transport target for its 28 countries to reach a ten per cent share of renewable energy in the overall fuel mix by 2020—and estimates by consultants CE Delft and TNO in a 2013 study ordered by the European Commission, showing that biodiesel will contribute 6.6 per cent the target—there is only relatively little science available on how best to assess emissions from biodiesel combustion, and notably of the part that is particulate matter, for the results to be relevant for human health and the environment.
Domestic wood burning and combustion of diesel fuel in automotive engines are considered to be the two main sources of emissions of particulate matter globally. Whether these latter impact negatively on human health depends on the size, shape and composition of the particles, as well as how well the body of a person who is exposed to such emissions is able to resist their impact, for how long the exposure goes on and with which intensity. According to the authors of a 2015 Review of the Health Impact of Airborne Particulate Matter, published in
, "small" particles of concern include inhalable coarse particles with a diameter of 2.5 to 10 micrometre (μm) and fine particles smaller than 2.5 μm in diameter.
To complicate matters further, the authors of Bringing Biofuels on the Market point out that: “Raising the blending limits for biodiesel is more difficult because of the more complex diesel emission control technology and the possible presence of impurities in biodiesel. For most passenger car manufacturers substantial time would be needed to adapt the regeneration strategy for diesel particulate filters to the higher biodiesel blend”.
The research environment
of Sweden has a team of scientists dedicated to delivering knowledge on the properties of particulate matter formed as a result of biofuel combustion. The researchers collaborate closely with colleagues at Northern Sweden’s largest hospital, the University Hospital of Umeå, to map the effects on human health of exposure to biofuel, and notably biodiesel emissions. In fact, last month PhD student
Particle Emissions from Residential Wood and Biodiesel Combustion