The available amount of fossil fuels is limited and their combustion in vehicle motors increases atmospheric CO2 levels. The generation of fuels from biomass as an alternative is on the rise. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, Johannes A. Lercher and his team at the Technische Universität München have now introduced a new catalytic process that allows the effective conversion of biopetroleum from microalgae into diesel fuels.
Plant oils from sources such as soybean and rapeseed are promising starting materials for the production of biofuels. Microalgae are an interesting alternative to these conventional oil-containing crops. Microalgae are individual cells or short chains of cells from algae freely moving through water. They occur in nearly any pool of water and can readily be cultivated. “They have a number of advantages over oil-containing agricultural products,” explains Lercher. “They grow significantly faster than land-based biomass, have a high triglyceride content, and, unlike the terrestrial cultivation of oilseed plants, their use for fuel production does not compete with food production.”
Previously known methods for refining oil from microalgae suffer from various disadvantages. The resulting fuel either has too high an oxygen content and poor flow at low temperatures, or a sulfur-containing catalyst may contaminate the product. However, other catalysts are still not efficient enough. The Munich scientists now propose a new process, for which they have developed a novel catalyst: nickel on a porous support made of zeolite HBeta. They have used this to achieve the conversion of raw, untreated algae oil under mild conditions (260 °C, 40 bar hydrogen pressure). Says Lercher: “The products are diesel-range saturated hydrocarbons that are suitable for use as high-grade fuels for vehicles.”
The oil produced by the microalgae is mainly composed of neutral lipids, such as mono-, di-, and triglycerides with unsaturated C18 fatty acids as the primary component (88 %). After an eight-hour reaction, the researchers obtain 78 % liquid alkanes with octadecane (C18) as the primary component. The main gas-phase side products are propane and methane.
Analysis of the reaction mechanism shows that this is a cascade reaction. First the double bonds of the unsaturated fatty acid chains of the triglycerides are saturated by hydrogen. Then, the now saturated fatty acids take up hydrogen and are split from their glycerin component, which reacts to form propane. In the final step, the acid groups in the fatty acids are reduced stepwise to the corresponding alkane.About the Author
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201106243
Johannes A. Lercher | Angewandte Chemie
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy