Sulfur compounds in fuels can cause problems. Big problems. To combat this issue, researchers at the University of Illinois have developed mats of metal oxide nanofibers that scrub sulfur from petroleum-based fuels in a much more effective way than traditional materials and methods.
Employing this technique would improve performance for fuel-based catalysis, facilitate toxic gas removal, and aid advanced energy applications. It would also lower costs significantly.
Fuel generally has issues with sulfur compounds because they release toxic gasses during combustion and they damage catalysts and metals in engines and fuel cells. Usually, liquid treatments are performed since they adsorb the sulfur from the fuel. However, the process is clunky and time consuming because the fuel must be cooled and reheated – a cumbersome process which ultimately makes the fuel less energy efficient.
University of Illinois researchers have found a solution to these problems. They believe solid metal oxide adsorbents may be key in surmounting the obstacle, but they acknowledge the adsorbents come with their own set of challenges since performance is limited by stability issues and they lose activity after only a few cycles. Their solution involves utilizing nanofibers made of tiny grains of zinc titanate . These bond the surface area and produce high reactivity and structural integrity in a high performance sulfur adsorbent.
Researchers noted their nanostructured fibers do not sinter, and the structure accommodates any thermophysical changes without resulting in degradation of the material. Surface area during operation can actually be gown and enhanced.