Studying this ‘mini-cellulose’ molecule reveals for the first time the chemical reactions that take place in wood and prairie grasses during high-temperature conversion to biofuel. The new technical discovery was reported in the January 2012 issue of the journal Energy & Environmental Science and highlighted in Nature Chemistry.
The “mini-cellulose” molecule, called á-cyclodextrin, solves one of the major roadblocks confronting high-temperature biofuels processes such as pyrolysis or gasification. The complex chemical reactions that take place as wood is rapidly heated and breaks down to vapors are unknown. And current technology doesn’t allow the use of computer models to track the chemical reactions taking place, because the molecules in wood are too large and the reactions far too complicated.
Paul Dauenhauer, assistant professor of chemical engineering and leader of the UMass Amherst research team, says the breakthrough achieved by studying the smaller surrogate molecule opens up the possibility of using computer simulations to study biomass. He says, “We calculated that it would take about 10,000 years to simulate the chemical reactions in real cellulose. The same biofuel reactions with ‘mini-cellulose’ can be done in a month!”
Already his team has used insight from studying the “mini-cellulose” to make significant progress in understanding wood chemistry, Dauenhauer says. Using the faster computer simulations, they can track the conversion of wood all the way to the chemical vapor products. These reactions include creating furans, molecules that are important for the production of biofuels.
The discovered reactions occurring within wood will serve as the basis for designing advanced biofuel reactors, Dauenhauer says. By creating reaction models of wood conversion, the scientists can design biomass reactors to optimize the specific reactions that are ideal for production of biofuels. For biofuels production, “We want to maximize our new pathway to produce furans and minimize the formation of gases such as CO2,” says Dauenhauer.
The discovery of “mini-cellulose” was enabled by a new experimental technique for studying high-temperature biomass chemistry called “thin-film pyrolysis.” It involves creating sheets of cellulose, which makes up 60 percent of wood biomass, that are very thin, just a few microns thick. When the sheets are very rapidly heated at over one million degrees Celsius per minute, they create volatile chemicals which are the precursors of biofuel.
Dauenhauer joined the university in 2009 and conducts his research as part of the Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation in collaboration with the University of Delaware and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). His research team includes Professor Dion Vlachos and graduate students Matt Mettler, Alex Paulsen and Samir Mushrif.
Dauenhauer has received several high-profile grants in the past year. In May 2011, he awarded a five-year, $800,000 Early Career Award in Basic Energy Sciences from the DOE. The grant provides support for his research on understanding the catalysts that control the process of breaking down plant matter into chemicals and fuel byproducts.
In February 2011, he was awarded a one-year, $80,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct basic research on pyrolysis. Additionally in 2011, he was awarded a three-year Young Faculty Award from the 3M Corporation.
Paul Dauenhauer | Newswise Science News
Nanoparticle Exposure Can Awaken Dormant Viruses in the Lungs
16.01.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Cholera bacteria infect more effectively with a simple twist of shape
13.01.2017 | Princeton University
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction