That's because the new fuels are identical at the molecular level to their petroleum-based counterparts. The only difference is where they come from.
Funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, Dumesic and his team have developed a process that creates transportation fuels from plant material. The paper, published in the Sept. 18 online version of the journal Science, explains how they convert sugar into molecules that can be efficiently "upgraded" into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
"Domestically, there are large amounts of lignocellulose available that are not being used effectively for energy," says Dumesic. "This work is a step along the way to making it practical to use biomass as fuel."
Lignocellulose refers to nonedible sources of biomass, which is biological material that can be converted into fuel. Instead of relying on corn as a source of energy, Dumesic notes that the goal of researchers in the field of "cellulosic ethanol" is to turn the carbohydrates, or sugars, from agricultural waste, corn stovers (leaves and stalks), switchgrass and forest residue into ethanol. Dumesic now suggests that instead of converting the water-soluble sugars derived from cellulose to ethanol, it may be better to convert these sugars to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels via this process.
Sugars are an attractive basis for fuel because they are abundant. Sugars comprise the largest portion of biomass, and the oil layer created by Dumesic retains 90 percent of the energy content in the original sugars.
The process of converting sugar into fuel begins by adding a solid catalyst to an aqueous solution, leading to the formation of an organic oil-like solution floating on top of the water. The oil layer, which is easily transportable, contains molecules of acids, alcohols, ketones and cyclics, which Dumesic calls "functional intermediates." These molecules are the precursors to fuel.
Unlike petroleum, plant sugars contain equal numbers of carbon and oxygen atoms, making it difficult to create high-octane or cetane fuels. The solution is to remove almost all the oxygen atoms, leaving only a few to keep the molecules reactive. The reactive molecules then can then be "upgraded" into different forms of fuel, and Dumesic's team has demonstrated three such upgrading processes.
"This is the same fuel we're currently using, just from a different source," says Dumesic. "It's not something that burns like it — it is it."
James Dumesic | EurekAlert!
The world's most powerful acoustic tractor beam could pave the way for levitating humans
22.01.2018 | University of Bristol
Siberian scientists learned how to reduce harmful emissions from HPPs
22.01.2018 | Siberian Federal University
Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.
Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
23.01.2018 | Life Sciences
23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy