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Octane: what is it?  

A project by Adam Seering



This project explains what octane is as a chemical and how it affects gasoline, and what effect this has on the consumer.


We've all seen the signs at the gas pump showing the different kinds of octane.

[Gas pump showing octane numbers]


So what is the difference between the different kinds? And what is that number anyway? Is it percent? What does it measure?


This site intends to answer these questions:

There is also a bibliography of all of the sources that were used as sources of information for this project, as well as a list of common misunderstandings that can be clarified using information gained by this project.

If you don't understand how a gasoline engine works, click here for a description; knowledge of how a gasoline engine works is necesary to understand the effects of octane.

There is a calculator here that determines how many mL of gasoline a car uses to accelerate to a given speed.


Here is a link to the essay portion of this assignment.   Note that to view this, you need an XML-capable browser, specifically new versions of Internet Explorer (some versions of Netscape may also work).


Note: to view all media on this site, it is necesary to download the free Web browser browser plug-ins 'MDL Chime' and 'Macromedia Flash'.   MDL Chime allows you to view 3D molecular models.  Download it here.  Macromedia Flash allows you to view large, complex animations; in this site, it is used to demonstrate the chemical reactions involved in burning and spontaneously combusting the primary components of gasoline. Download it here.