07 April 2008

Direct Conversion of Grass to Gas: Grassoline!

Two teams of scientists recently demonstrated methods of direct production of hydrocarbon fuel from biomass cellulose. The direct conversion process also releases extra heat which can be used to generate additional electricity from the process.
Researchers have made a breakthrough in the development of "green gasoline," a liquid identical to standard gasoline yet created from sustainable biomass sources like switchgrass and poplar trees.

James Dumesic and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison announce an integrated process for creating chemical components of jet fuel using a green gasoline approach... For their new approach, the UMass researchers rapidly heated cellulose in the presence of solid catalysts, materials that speed up reactions without sacrificing themselves in the process. They then rapidly cooled the products to create a liquid that contains many of the compounds found in gasoline.

The entire process was completed in under two minutes using relatively moderate amounts of heat. The compounds that formed in that single step, like naphthalene and toluene, make up one fourth of the suite of chemicals found in gasoline. The liquid can be further treated to form the remaining fuel components or can be used "as is" for a high octane gasoline blend.

...Not only is the method a compact way to treat a great deal of biomass in a short time, Regalbuto emphasized that the process, in principle, does not require any external energy. "In fact, from the extra heat that will be released, you can generate electricity in addition to the biofuel," he said. "There will not be just a small carbon footprint for the process; by recovering heat and generating electricity, there won't be any footprint." (reported in April 7, 2008 issue of Chemistry & Sustainability, Energy & Materials) ___TechNewsDaily
So we have yet another method of thermochemical conversion of biomass to liquid fuels.


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Blogger Michael Anissimov said...

But... PEAK OIL!!! ;)

Monday, 07 April, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Yeah, I know. The good thing about "peak oil" is that since "we are running out of oil" no one is trying too hard to get oil prices down.

High prices for oil force a lot more money into research on alternative fuels. As more efficient processes are developed, bulk alternatives eventually become cheaper than oil--even at true market rates.

Some may enjoy watching sheikhs, emirs, and kings eating oil on a future reality television show.

Tuesday, 08 April, 2008  
Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

I would love to know more about the catalysts. Are these rare metals / transition metals that will be extremely expensive to acquire?

Tuesday, 08 April, 2008  
Blogger IConrad said...


I doubt it. More often than not, metals make extremely poor catalysts. They're too reactive. Transition metals moreso.

I'm not speaking with authority on that, though.

Tuesday, 08 April, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Research on catalysts is very active, given the potential payoffs involved. Some catalysts are based on precious metals, some on zeolites,
some on bio-catalysts (enzymes) etc.

A very competitive and probably secretive field.

Tuesday, 08 April, 2008  

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