New catalysts to remove oxygenated compounds from bio-derived oils may lead to better and cheaper renewable biofuels
Dwindling crude oil reserves, accompanied by rising prices and environmental concerns, have led to increased interest in the use of renewable fuels. Biofuels produced from waste agricultural or forestry material are particularly desirable because they avoid diverting resources from the production of food crops.
The deoxygenation of biomass such as corn stover or forestry waste could be the key to development of viable biofuels.
Oils produced by high-temperature treatment of these waste materials, however, contain a large amount of oxygenated compounds that result in undesirable properties such as high viscosity and corrosiveness.
Now, Jie Chang, Armando Borgna and co-workers from the A*STAR Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences in Singapore describe a series of catalysts that might be used to upgrade these oils by removing the undesirable oxygen-containing functional groups1. Using the compound guaiacol as a model for oxygenated bio-derived oils, the researchers found that the most promising catalysts for guaiacol deoxygenation are comprised of molybdenum metal on a carbon support.
The diversity of sources of waste biomass means that there is great variability in the content of the bio-oils produced by the initial heat treatment, which is itself the subject of much research. Guaiacol provides, in a single and easily available compound, the types of oxygen-containing functional groups that typically need to be removed.
Catalysts for the related process of desulfurization are widely used in petroleum refineries to produce cleaner fuels, but they are not optimized for deoxygenation. “The desulfurization catalysts are well developed and understood because of extensive research into the mechanisms by which they work,” explains Chang. “We are using guaiacol as a model compound to develop a similar level of understanding for deoxygenation.”
The best catalysts identified by the researchers show complete conversion of guaiacol and over 80 per cent selectivity to the desired hydrocarbon products within minutes.
Chang and co-workers undertook a detailed study of the structure of the catalysts before and during the reaction, as well as of the catalysts that were deactivated. They also attempted to identify the reaction process — in particular, the types of oxygen-containing functional groups that react first and whether this affects the performance of the catalyst.
While catalyst selectivity is critical, other factors such as the activity and stability of the catalyst will prove equally important because of their impact on the economics of the overall process. “There is a long way to go before this complete ‘biomass to fuel’ process can become commercial,” says Chang. “Also, we hope to develop the selectivity even further so that it becomes useful for developing fine chemicals as well as fuels.”
The A*STAR-affiliated researchers contributing to this research are from the Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences
Chang, J., Danuthai, T., Dewiyanti, S., Wang, C. & Borgna, A. Hydrodeoxygenation of guaiacol over carbon-supported metal catalysts. ChemCatChem 5, 3041–3049 (2013)
Quasi-sexual gene transfer drives genetic diversity of hot spring bacteria
29.05.2015 | Carnegie Institution
Scientists use unmanned aerial vehicle to study gray whales from above
29.05.2015 | NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service
Many joining and cutting processes are possible only with lasers. New technologies make it possible to manufacture metal components with hollow structures that are significantly lighter and yet just as stable as solid components. In addition, lasers can be used to combine various lightweight construction materials and steels with each other. The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen is presenting a range of such solutions at the LASER World of Photonics trade fair from June 22 to 25, 2015 in Munich, Germany, (Hall A3, Stand 121).
Lightweight construction materials are popular: aluminum is used in the bodywork of cars, for example, and aircraft fuselages already consist in large part of...
Using ultrashort laser pulses, scientists in Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have demonstrated the emission of extreme ultraviolet radiation from thin dielectric films and have investigated the underlying mechanisms.
In 1961, only shortly after the invention of the first laser, scientists exposed silicon dioxide crystals (also known as quartz) to an intense ruby laser to...
The only professorship in Germany to date, one master's programme, one laboratory with worldwide unique equipment and the corresponding research results: The University of Würzburg is leading in the field of biofabrication.
Paul Dalton is presently the only professor of biofabrication in Germany. About a year ago, the Australian researcher relocated to the Würzburg department for...
Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of nanocomponents in electronic circuits. To achieve this, they have developed a layout in which a nanocomponent is connected to two electrical conductors, which uncouple the electrical signal in a highly efficient manner. The scientists at the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel have published their results in the scientific journal “Nature Communications” together with their colleagues from ETH Zurich.
Electronic components are becoming smaller and smaller. Components measuring just a few nanometers – the size of around ten atoms – are already being produced...
Development and implementation of an advanced automobile parking navigation platform for parking services
To fulfill the requirements of the industry, PolyU researchers developed the Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation Platform, which includes smart devices,...
20.05.2015 | Event News
18.05.2015 | Event News
12.05.2015 | Event News
29.05.2015 | Life Sciences
29.05.2015 | Earth Sciences
29.05.2015 | Physics and Astronomy