Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Converting biomass by applying mechanical force

15.03.2019

Nanoscientists discover new mechanism to cleave cellulose effectively and in an environmentally friendly way

One of the greatest global challenges is the efficient use of renewable sources in order to meet the increasing demand for energy and feedstock chemicals in the future. In this context, biomass is a promising alternative to existing fossil sources such as coal or oil.


The molecular structure of cellulose, to which nanoscientists applied mechanical force (green arrows). The hydrolysis reaction changed dramatically as a result.

Credit: Saeed Amirjalayer et al./Angew Chem

Usage Restrictions: The pictures may only be used in connection with the press release.

Cellulose plays a decisive role here because it accounts for the largest fraction of the natural carbon storage. These reservoirs are crucial for the production of both fuels and basic chemicals.

In order to utilize its full potential, the chain-like structure of cellulose must be broken up. This can be done by a so-called hydrolysis reaction, which, however, is difficult due to the atomic structure of cellulose and has been very costly so far.

Researchers at the University of Münster (Germany) headed by Dr. Saeed Amirjalayer and Prof. Harald Fuchs and and the University of Bochum headed by Prof. Dominik Marx have now succeeded in identifying a new reaction mechanism in which cellulose can be converted highly efficiently using mechanical force.

This so-called mechano-catalytic reaction could lead to the development of an efficient, environmentally friendly and cost-effective process for the conversion of biomass. The study has been published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Background information and Method:

Using a hydrolysis reaction, the cellulose backbone can be broken down into individual molecular building block. These molecular building blocks are the actual basis for producing fuels or chemical feedstocks. In their search for ways to make the hydrolysis reaction more efficient, researchers have already found evidence in earlier studies that mechanical forces can influence the process of conversion.

So-far it has not been possible to elucidate the influence of mechanical force during each individual reaction step at the atomic level. However, this level of insight is needed to develop a corresponding efficient and resource-efficient process. In the now published work, the scientists show that the use of mechanical force on the cellulose molecules, over a certain level, has a significant influence on the reaction.

To do so, the nanoscientists carried out so-called atomistic modelling. These enabled them to follow the individual steps of the hydrolysis reaction in detail and at the same time to apply a mechanical force on the molecular structure.

The researchers calculated so-called energy profiles, which describe the energy pathway along the reaction coordinate with and without the influence of mechanical forces. What they succeeded to show is that stressing the molecular backbone of the cellulose had a strong influence on the hydrolysis reaction. On the one hand, the energy required to activate the process was significantly reduced.

On the other hand, an increased mechanical force even made two of the usual three reaction steps superfluous. "By means of our atomistic models we could explicitly investigate the influence of mechanical force on the reaction mechanism", says leading author Dr. Saeed Amirjalayer, who works as a group leader at the Institute of Physics at Münster University and at the Center for Nanotechnology (CeNTech). "This enabled us to elucidate a previously unknown and highly efficient reaction pathway for the conversion of cellulose," he adds.

The new results not only confirm the experimental observations, but also show the potential to control molecular processes with the help of mechanical force. "Among other things, we were able to show that the so-called proton affinity in cellulose can be increased region-selectively by mechanical force," Saeed Amirjalayer explains.

The scientists therefore hope that this work will not only enable an efficient and environmentally friendly process for the conversion of cellulose, but also lead to the development of novel mechano-responsive substances, such as plastics. These substances could be easily recycled by mechanical forces after usage.

###

Original publication:

S. Amirjalayer, H. Fuchs, D. Marx: Understanding the Mechanocatalytic Conversion of Biomass: A Low Energy One Step Reaction Mechanism by Applying Mechanical Force, Angewandte Chemie Int. Ed. (2019)

Media Contact

Dr. Saeed Amirjalayer
s.amirjalayer@wwu.de
49-025-183-63919

 @@WWU_Muenster

http://www.uni-muenster.de 

Dr. Saeed Amirjalayer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://www.uni-muenster.de/news/view.php?cmdid=10133&lang=en
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201811091

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel methods for analyzing neural circuits for innate behaviors in insects
15.03.2019 | Kanazawa University

nachricht Can an antifreeze protein also promote ice formation?
15.03.2019 | Weizmann Institute of Science

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

Im Focus: Sensing shakes

A new way to sense earthquakes could help improve early warning systems

Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...

Im Focus: A thermo-sensor for magnetic bits

New concept for energy-efficient data processing technology

Scientists of the Department of Physics at the University of Hamburg, Germany, detected the magnetic states of atoms on a surface using only heat. The...

Im Focus: The moiré patterns of three layers change the electronic properties of graphene

Combining an atomically thin graphene and a boron nitride layer at a slightly rotated angle changes their electrical properties. Physicists at the University of Basel have now shown for the first time the combination with a third layer can result in new material properties also in a three-layer sandwich of carbon and boron nitride. This significantly increases the number of potential synthetic materials, report the researchers in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Last year, researchers in the US caused a big stir when they showed that rotating two stacked graphene layers by a “magical” angle of 1.1 degrees turns...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Novel methods for analyzing neural circuits for innate behaviors in insects

15.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Converting biomass by applying mechanical force

15.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Can an antifreeze protein also promote ice formation?

15.03.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>