Mixture of volatile, flammable hydrocarbons derived from petroleum, used as fuel for internal-combustion engines and as a solvent for oils and fats. Gasoline became the preferred automobile fuel because it releases a great deal of energy when burned, it mixed readily with air in a carburetor, and it initially was cheap due to a large supply. Costs have now increased greatly except where subsidized. Gasoline was first produced by distillation. Later processes increased the yield from crude oil by splitting large molecules into smaller ones. Still other methods, such as conversion of straight-chain hydrocarbons into their branched-chain isomers, followed. The resulting gasoline is a complex mixture of hundreds of hydrocarbons. A gasoline's octane number indicates its ability to resist knocking (premature combustion) and can be altered by changing the proportions of certain components. The compound tetraethyl lead, once used to reduce knocking, has been banned as toxic. Other additives include detergents, antifreezes, and antioxidants. Since the mid-20th century gasoline fumes have been recognized as a major component of urban air pollution. Efforts to reduce dependence on gasoline, which is a nonrenewable resource, include use of gasohol, a 9:1 mix of gasoline and ethanol, and the development of electric automobiles.
Variants of GASOLINE
gasoline British petrol
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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