University of Minnesota engineering researchers are leading an international team that has made a major breakthrough in developing a catalyst used during chemical reactions in the production of gasoline, plastics, biofuels, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals. The discovery could lead to major efficiencies and cost-savings in these multibillion-dollar industries.
The research is to be published in the June 29, 2012 issue of the leading scientific journal Science.
"The impact of this new discovery is enormous," said the team's lead researcher Michael Tsapatsis, a chemical engineering and materials science professor in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering. "Every drop of gasoline we use needs a catalyst to change the oil molecules into usable gasoline during the refining process."
This research improves efficiencies by giving molecules fast access to the catalysts where the chemical reactions occur. Tsapatsis compared it to our use of freeways and side streets in our daily lives.
"It's faster and more efficient to use freeways to get where we want to go and exit to do our business compared to driving the side streets the entire way," he explained. "The catalysts used today are more like all side streets. Molecules move slowly and get stuck. The efficiencies of these new catalysts could lower the costs of gasoline and other products for all of us."
The research team built their prototype of the new catalyst using highly optimized ultra-thin zeolite nanosheets. They used a unique process to encourage growth of these nanosheets at 90-degree angles, similar to building a house of cards. The house-of-cards arrangement of the nanosheets makes the catalyst faster, more selective and more stable, but can be made at the same cost (or possibly cheaper) than traditional catalysts.
With faster catalysts available at no extra cost to the producer, production per manufacturing dollar will increase. With a higher output, it is conceivable that consumer costs will drop.
This new discovery builds upon previous discoveries at the University of Minnesota of ultra-thin zeolite nanosheets used as specialized molecular sieves for production of both renewable and fossil-based fuels and chemicals. These discoveries, licensed by the new Minnesota start-up company Argilex Technologies, are key components of the company's materials-based platform. The development of the new catalyst is complete, and the material is ready for customer testing.
"This breakthrough can have a major impact on both the conversion of natural gas to higher value chemicals and fuels, and on bio- and petroleum refiners," said Cesar Gonzalez, CEO of Argilex Technologies. "Using catalysts made by this novel approach, refiners will be able to obtain a higher yield of desirable products such as gasoline, diesel, ethylene and propylene. At Argilex, we envision this catalyst technology platform to become a key contributor to efficient use of natural resources and improved economics of the world's largest industries."
Researchers on the team are from around the globe. In addition to the University of Minnesota, researchers are from institutions in Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, Korea and Sweden.
Primary funding for this research is from the U.S. Department of Energy's Center for Catalysis and Energy Innovation, an Energy Frontier Research Center. The University of Minnesota is a partner in this multi-institutional research center at the University of Delaware. Other funding for this research is from the National Science Foundation Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation Program, the University of Minnesota's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, and the Abu Dhabi-Minnesota Institute for Research Excellence (ADMIRE) partnership between the University of Minnesota and the Abu Dhabi Petroleum Institute.
Read the full research paper entitled "Synthesis of Self-Pillared Zeolite Nanosheets by Repetitive Branching," on the Science website: http://z.umn.edu/catalyst.
Rhonda Zurn | EurekAlert!
Producing electricity during flight
20.09.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Solar-to-fuel system recycles CO2 to make ethanol and ethylene
19.09.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy