- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2000

A former American University chemist yesterday reported that he and a Virginia entrepreneur had created a safe, pollution-reducing and mileage-boosting replacement for harmful gasoline additives.
In a well-received paper presented at the annual American Chemical Society meeting that ended here yesterday, Paul Waters explained he had created a polymer additive for gasoline called polyisobutylene.
He said that controlled company tests using more than 50 different automobiles show the new agent reduces harmful auto emissions by 70 percent while increasing engine power 10 percent and gas mileage at least 20 percent.
The additive is being tested by officials in California, Maryland and Wisconsin, and also in China, Japan and Ireland.
"We've introduced the first antiknock [or combustion-enhancing] agent that is not a poison or environmental disaster," Mr. Waters said in an interview.
"What Professor Waters has, on the face of it, is a quite remarkable discovery," said Graham Swift, a Philadelphia-based polymer scientist and industrial consultant.
He adds, "I heard Professor Waters' presentation and conferred with respected colleagues. The consensus is that his science is good. He doesn't leave much room for doubt a very good scientific discovery."
Put most simply, Mr. Waters' discovery is a method of changing the physical properties of gasoline rather than simply adding oxygen to it as all other additives do.
Introducing as little as two ounces of the polyisobutylene to a tank of gas forces slower-burning gasoline molecules to move closer to the faster-burning ones. That allows the fuel to burn more evenly at reduced temperatures. When that happens, fewer unwanted emissions are produced.
The altered gasoline reportedly cannot harm engines and can be used universally in lawn mowers and in big trucks' diesels, too.
Mr. Waters is an emeritus professor at American University. For years, he has been collaborating with General Technology Applications, a small, 22-year-old Gainesville, Va., company that was formed to commercialize the military's technological innovations.
Company president Jerry Trippe said Mr. Waters "stumbled" on the technology for producing the additive while he and company specialists were trying to modify jet fuels so they wouldn't explode in crashes.
Both Mr. Trippe and Mr. Waters are convinced their discovery can bring an end to the long and increasingly intense search for a new way to reduce smog-producing and dangerous hydrocarbon emissions from internal-combustion engines.
Since 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency has required the use of gasolines reformulated with pollution-reducing additives in at least 17 states reporting severe smog. That includes most of the Northeast.
But in the last couple of years, the quest for a better additive has gained crucial importance because the most common additive, MTBE (or methyl tertiary butyl ether) has been found to contaminate ground water and to create serious health risks.
A National Academy of Sciences study also found last year that MTBE and its common substitute ethanol do little to reduce smog and are likely to worsen pollution. California and five other states thus have banned the additive and Maine no longer requires its use.
Mr. Trippe said there is no question that polyisobutylene can fill the gap left by MTBE.
"The trick is for a little company to arrange and pay for all the testing needed to convince the petroleum industry," he said. "Ours is an unusual approach. The experts aren't used to confronting the problem the way we have."
Mr. Waters is less diplomatic.
"It's difficult when you have something brand new because the regulators tend not to understand any technology that wasn't invented by some German before 1900," he said.

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