Office of the President

Understanding Chain Branching Reactions


Dr. Joseph Bozzelli's research has yielded the first major improvement in understanding chain branching in hydrocarbon oxidation to be published in two decades.


A new understanding of chain branching, an important part of hydrocarbon combustion, is the work of Joseph W. Bozzelli, distinguished professor of chemistry. A recent paper, published in the prestigious American Chemical Society Journal of Physical Chemistry describes four completely new, low energy, chain branching steps for hydrocarbon combustion/oxidation processes. His findings represent the first major improvement in understanding chain branching in hydrocarbon oxidation to be published in two decades.


Combustion is a highly efficient process used to produce energy or to convert wastes into minerals. The reason for its high efficiency is because it utilizes elementary chemical reactions that are chain propagating and chain branching. These propagation and branching reactions serve to amplify the chemical reaction system so more and more reactions occur in a unit period of time. Knowledge of the chain branching reactions is critical to understanding and optimizing the combustion processes in internal combustion engines, both spark and compression ignition, in turbines and other thermal applications. Dr. Bozzelli's work is directed at the detailed chemistry for ignition models in spark (gasoline) and compression (diesel) engines. The work will allow modelers to use this new chemistry for design improvements in these engines and in turbines.