Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Development of Low-cost Sensor to Measure Biodiesel Blend Ratio and Water Contamination in Biodiesel(ST9459-1)

Brookhaven National Lab


At biodiesel production and blending facilities, spectroscopy-based detection methods are used to measure fuel specifications such as the ratio of biodiesel to diesel in the product, and water contamination. Consumers of biodiesel blends need a biodiesel blend sensor that is less expensive and faster than spectroscopy. The sensor could be used for quality assurance as well as for on-line detection of blend ratio to control diesel engine parameters during operation. Preliminary work suggests an impedance-based sensor could detect blend ratios.

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Project Description

The overall goal is to develop a small, inexpensive, easy-to-use multi-sensor capable of determining the blend ratio and water content of biodiesel blends. This project focused only on the blend ratios.


A successful sensor for biodiesel consumers would allow them to more effectively control fuel efficiency and regulated emissions. It also could help with market penetration of biodiesel by providing blenders, regulators, and auditors with a better way to track biodiesel quality and use in blends. The sensor market in North America is currently $5 billion/year. Estimated use of sensors by the United States Department of Defense is 2000-3000 units.

Project Results

Researchers: 1) designed and fabricated an experimental parallel-plate capacitor sensor that measures dielectric constants; 2) optimized the electrode area and sensitivity of the sensor; 3) designed and fabricated an electronic module to interface with the sensor; 4) tested the sensor in biodiesel blends, including biodiesel made from different feedstock; and, 5) tested an existing optical sensor ,developed by the subcontractor, in biodiesel blends, and compared results with the capacitive sensor developed in this project. This project focused on blend ratios; later work may expand the sensor capabilities to include water content as well as designing the display and producing a prototype.


Brookhaven National Lab
32 Lewis Road Building 130
Upton, NY 11973

Principle Investigator

Narinder Tutu

Universities Involved


Project Type:

Indigenous/Renewable Energy Resources

Technologies Types:

NYSERDA Contact Information

Judy Jarnefeld


R&D - Environment & Energy Res

Contract Details

Start Date: 1/11/2010
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: ST9459-1

Last Updated: 8/14/2014