Using Mobile Equipment for Rapid Analysis of Fuels

Grabner Instruments’ mobile measuring equipment is used for the reliable and quick examination of fuels. These are then supplied for use after a high level of quality has been established.

Grabner Instruments

Grabner Instruments

The fuel department of the Austrian Federal Office for Military Equipment (Amt für Wehrtechnik), led by Lieutenant colonel Spielbüchler, has become a very modern and flexible element of the Austrian Armed Forces, which is also increasingly valued globally. The introduction of modern analytical equipment, particularly mobile instruments, such as those from Grabner Instruments, presently allows the Austrian army to quickly determine key parameters on-site. Decisions are then made based on these results. Equipment from Grabner Instruments will also constitute a huge part of the fuel laboratory, which is being installed for global operation.

About 400 people at the Federal Office for Military Equipment are responsible for technical matters regarding all kinds of weapon, instrument, ammunition, and fuel for boats, land vehicles, and aircraft. Man and measuring instrument are stretched to the limit in this case. In addition to continuous monitoring of the quality of fuel, substitute products are also tested and inspection specifications are determined for new products.

The results from the mobile laboratories are usually used for the quick quality control of fuels and are thus directly responsible for the smooth running of machines. At the Federal Office for Military Equipment’s chemical laboratory, the optimization of service intervals is one of the ongoing projects. The objective of the project is to significantly minimize costs and environmental pollution.

Only very few measuring instruments are available which can be used in the laboratory as well as in the field. Firstly, the technical demands imposed on an instrument on-site differ from those in the lab, and secondly, mobile use needs a specifically robust design.

One of the few manufacturers producing instruments that are ideal for both on-site and laboratory operation is Grabner Instruments GmbH. The Austrian Armed Forces use Grabner Instruments to (i) estimate the flash point, (ii) to predict the flow properties of lubrication grease according to KESTERNICH, and (iii) to measure the vapor pressure.

Product Identification Using Flash Point Measurement

The quality assurance routine incorporates a systematic acceptance inspection for all fuel supplies. The criteria for aircraft fuel is particularly stringent. A sample is taken from each tank load and various parameters such as the flash point, viscosity, density, and others are determined. The tanker is simply sealed and official permission to deliver to the air base is granted only if the measuring results prove that the contents are pure. As lieutenant colonel Spielbüchler explained, the Austrian army is proud, “that no aircraft has ever been lost due to defective fuel.” Samples with extremely low or extremely high flash points are usually measured since the law demands flash point determination for the transport and storage of harmful freight. For the optimal compliance of these demands, Grabner Instruments provides an array of models from the MINIFLASH series.

The instruments come with powerful Peltier thermostats and cover a sufficient temperature ranging from −25 °C to +400 °C.

“Safety First”

While the flash point of a substance is a very standard product characteristic, its determination has not always been prevalent. This was due to the use of open flame as part of the test in traditional methods.

The first instrument to make flash point determination safe was the MINIFLASH from Grabner Instruments. The first company to use the concept of the continuously closed cup in a marketable product was Grabner Instruments. This implies that open flame is not used at any point during the test. Using the MINIFLASH, the fuel vapors are ignited in a closed sample cup.

Moreover, the MINIFLASH needs very little sample, which is an important advantage. Just 1 mL of sample is enough. Lieutenant colonel Spielbüchler describes that because of this, unpleasant odors in the laboratory are kept to a minimum, and very little waste is generated. This little amount of sample is also adequate for the reconstruction of damage claims and for mixtures (diesel and petrol). Constant use of these types of flash point instruments has resulted in a significant reduction in personnel costs.

All these benefits have also persuaded the US Navy, for instance, to equip most of its fleet with several hundred MINIFLASH flash point instruments.

Estimating Drying Times and Explosion Behavior Using Vapor Pressure

No matter whether it is for a special cleaner, rust remover, or fuel, just like the flash point, the vapor pressure is also a vital quality parameter for fuels that are hazardously explosive or for fuels with toxic vapors. In fact, the vapor pressure demonstrates, for instance, whether the fuel mix used for aircraft motors will still ignite at very high altitudes or very low temperatures, or shows when a special cleaner has dried on brake shoes or clutch parts allowing them to be fitted.

For many years, the Austrian Armed Forces have been using Grabner vapor pressure measuring instruments.

We use models from the MINIVAP series. They are easy to operate and very robust, providing accurate and reliable vapor pressure values within just 5 minutes. The instruments are used for mobile routine measurements for quality control and also for special tasks in the laboratory.

Lieutenant colonel Spielbüchler, Austrian Federal Office for Military Equipment

Flash Point

Flash point can be defined as the lowest temperature at which the vapors of flammable liquids will ignite, tuned to an atmospheric pressure of 101.3 kPa (760 mm Hg). Ignition is started by applying a flame. The flash point is a measurement of a substance’s flammability.

Short flash point table

Kerosene Diesel Petrol Motor Oil Motor oil containing 5% diesel
40 - 60 °C 55 - 70 °C -25 °C ~ 200 °C ~ 140 °C


Vapor Pressure

The vapor pressure is a physical variable that defines the rate at which a liquid turns into a gas under definite temperature and air pressure conditions. The vapor pressure is the pressure that acts on the walls of a vessel that contains a vapor along with its liquid component in equilibrium. The vapor pressure is proportional to temperature and it increases as the temperature increases. Liquids that have a low boiling point and small heat of evaporation, and which vaporize easily (for example, ether), have a high vapor pressure. Liquids that have a high boiling point and do not vaporize easily (for example, oils) have a low vapor pressure.

Short vapor pressure table, specifications at 20 °C

Ethyl ether Acetone Benzole Ethanol Water Dimenthyl-formamide Diglycol Mercury


This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Grabner Instruments.

For more information on this source, please visit Grabner Instruments.


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