Have you ever stopped to think about what exactly is ‘jet fuel’? Or maybe you have dreamed of running your old car off of jet fuel and turning it into a rocket car! Well, jet fuel and gasoline are similar, but you can’t run just any car off of jet fuel.
Jet fuel and gasoline both consist of long strings of hydrocarbons derived from the refinement of oil. Where the fuels differ is just what hydrocarbons each of the types contain. Gasoline consists of hydrocarbons that contain anywhere from 7 to 11 carbon atoms with hydrogen molecules attached. Jet fuel, on the other hand, contains hydrocarbons more in the range of 12 to 15 carbon atoms. In more colloquial terminology, jet fuel is made up mostly of kerosene.
Theoretically speaking, jets and cars could run off of the same fuel, but the environments that airplanes travel through tend to be very different than normal driving conditions. Temperatures in flight for airplanes can drop to under 30˚ C. At this low temperature, normal gasoline would likely freeze, ultimately causing proper combustion to stop. For this main reason, kerosene is used in jet fuel because it has a lower freezing point. Kerosene also has a higher flash point, which makes it much safer in preventing unplanned combustion. Given the lower freezing point of jet fuel and the higher flash point, the fuel has a much wider safe operational temperature range.
The other difference between gasoline and jet fuel is the additives injected into the mix for jet fuel. Anti-static chemicals, de-icing agents, anticorrosive agents, and anti-bacterial agents are all added to jet fuel to make sure that no unexpected circumstances are met while flying high in the sky.
Jet fuel can actually be used in cars, but only in diesel engines. Kerosene jet fuel and diesel are actually similar enough to allow for cross-functionality. Although, I wouldn’t recommend running a jet on diesel. Other than this just being a cool theoretical use, Toyota actually used jet fuel in the Toyota Hilux on their arctic truck 2012, according to Wired.
Ultimately, the difference between gasoline and jet fuel are the hydrocarbon molecules and the additives contained in the fuel. Both are derived from crude oil, and both run their respective engines on combustion. For a quick overview of the differences between gasoline and jet fuel, you can also watch the video below.