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!
Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging
25.10.2016 | Colorado State University
Did you know that infrared heating is an essential part of automotive manufacture?
25.10.2016 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
26.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
26.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences