That's because the new fuels are identical at the molecular level to their petroleum-based counterparts. The only difference is where they come from.
Funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, Dumesic and his team have developed a process that creates transportation fuels from plant material. The paper, published in the Sept. 18 online version of the journal Science, explains how they convert sugar into molecules that can be efficiently "upgraded" into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
"Domestically, there are large amounts of lignocellulose available that are not being used effectively for energy," says Dumesic. "This work is a step along the way to making it practical to use biomass as fuel."
Lignocellulose refers to nonedible sources of biomass, which is biological material that can be converted into fuel. Instead of relying on corn as a source of energy, Dumesic notes that the goal of researchers in the field of "cellulosic ethanol" is to turn the carbohydrates, or sugars, from agricultural waste, corn stovers (leaves and stalks), switchgrass and forest residue into ethanol. Dumesic now suggests that instead of converting the water-soluble sugars derived from cellulose to ethanol, it may be better to convert these sugars to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels via this process.
Sugars are an attractive basis for fuel because they are abundant. Sugars comprise the largest portion of biomass, and the oil layer created by Dumesic retains 90 percent of the energy content in the original sugars.
The process of converting sugar into fuel begins by adding a solid catalyst to an aqueous solution, leading to the formation of an organic oil-like solution floating on top of the water. The oil layer, which is easily transportable, contains molecules of acids, alcohols, ketones and cyclics, which Dumesic calls "functional intermediates." These molecules are the precursors to fuel.
Unlike petroleum, plant sugars contain equal numbers of carbon and oxygen atoms, making it difficult to create high-octane or cetane fuels. The solution is to remove almost all the oxygen atoms, leaving only a few to keep the molecules reactive. The reactive molecules then can then be "upgraded" into different forms of fuel, and Dumesic's team has demonstrated three such upgrading processes.
"This is the same fuel we're currently using, just from a different source," says Dumesic. "It's not something that burns like it — it is it."
James Dumesic | EurekAlert!
Nano-scale process may speed arrival of cheaper hi-tech products
09.11.2018 | University of Edinburgh
Nuclear fusion: wrestling with burning questions on the control of 'burning plasmas'
25.10.2018 | Lehigh University
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences
14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
14.11.2018 | Life Sciences