Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Biofuel Process May Change Chemical Industry

22.04.2010
A new method of converting biomass feedstock into sustainable fuel developed by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and University of Minnesota has the potential to have a profound effect on the chemical industry.

The “gasification” process developed by this team of researchers not only greatly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, but doubles the amount of fuel that can be made from an acre of biomass feedstock, says Paul J. Dauenhauer of the UMass Amherst chemical engineering department.

Dauenhauer explained the new process in a recent story in Technology Review, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He says using the new approach, researchers gasify biomass in the presence of precisely controlled amounts of carbon dioxide and methane in a special catalytic reactor they have developed. The result is that all the carbon in both the biomass and the methane is converted to carbon monoxide.

He says applying this new technique allows the researchers to use 100 percent of the carbon in that biomass for making biofuels. That doubles the proportion of fuel-producing carbon produced by a conventional gasification process done in one reactor while converting biomass to biofuels.

The new method, when perfected in as few as two years, would be a major step forward in the quest for a production-ready process to convert biomass to biofuel, Dauenhauer says. His colleagues at Minnesota are Professor Aditya Bhan and Regents Professor Lanny Schmidt.

Dauenhauer explains that currently, biomass can be converted to fuels by gasification, which uses high temperatures to break feedstock down into carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which can then be made into various fuels, including hydrocarbons. But there’s a major drawback – about half of the carbon in the biomass gets converted to carbon dioxide rather than into carbon monoxide, a precursor for fuels. The question for Dauenhauer and the research team was how to improve that technology. One of the ways is to control the “breakdown environment.”

To increase the yields from gasification, the researchers add carbon dioxide, which promotes a well-known reaction: the carbon dioxide combines with hydrogen to produce water and carbon monoxide. But adding carbon dioxide isn’t enough to convert all of the carbon in biomass into carbon monoxide instead of carbon dioxide. It’s also necessary to add hydrogen, which helps in part by providing the energy needed to drive the reactions. The new gasification process uses methane, the main component of cheap and available natural gas, to generate the hydrogen within the reactor. While it has long been possible to do each of these steps in separate chemical reactors, the researchers’ innovation was to find a way to combine all of these reactions in a single reactor, the key to making the process affordable, Dauenhaer says.

It could be especially profound considering the high stakes. “Our ability to provide fuels and chemicals in a sustainable manner for future generations presents the largest global challenge for reaction engineering in the 21st century,” says Dauenhauer.

A commercial version of the process could be set up near an existing natural gas power plant, which would provide ready access to methane and carbon dioxide. But, as the Technology Review notes, the process isn’t yet ready for commercialization. The researchers will need to demonstrate that it works with biomass, not just with cellulose derived from biomass. Biomass contains various contaminants not found in pure cellulose. Those contaminants could have a negative effect on the catalyst, and this could make it necessary to reengineer the reactor. And there could be challenges scaling up the process, including ensuring that heat moves through the reactor the same way it does on a small scale.

Dauenhauer notes that those challenges are minor compared to what his research team has already overcome: “If you have an industrial facility developing this process, I believe it could be brought to market within a couple of years.”

Paul J. Dauenhauer | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.umass.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Flow of cerebrospinal fluid regulates neural stem cell division
22.05.2018 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Chemists at FAU successfully demonstrate imine hydrogenation with inexpensive main group metal
22.05.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

Im Focus: Computer-Designed Customized Regenerative Heart Valves

Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.

Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...

Im Focus: Light-induced superconductivity under high pressure

A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.

Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersonic waves may help electronics beat the heat

18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Keeping a Close Eye on Ice Loss

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

CrowdWater: An App for Flood Research

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>