numbers on the gas pump

September 19, 1887 – What do the numbers on the gas pump mean?

On this day in 1887 Dr. Graham Edgar, developer of the octane rating system, was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas. During the pioneering era of the early automobile it was impossible to tell if a gasoline would cause engine knocking due to irregular combustion. Knocking was the result of non standard refining processes and the use of numerous types of fuels within gas engines. The only real way to find out if a particular fuel would work in a car was to fill it up and crank it. In 1926, while working for a division of General Motors, Edgar solved this issue by developing the octane rating system. He found that the chemical isooctane would not knock in any engine, under any operating conditions, while n-heptane would always knock in any engine. By mixing isooctane and n-heptane in different amounts, he was able to create fuels of all qualities. The percentage of isooctane in the mixture is the octane number read on the fuel pump today.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email