Biomass can now be converted into fuels efficiently, ensuring long-lasting availability of renewable materials. This is possible thanks to research conducted by a team of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists.
The study published in the journal Catalysis Science & Technology gives new insights in the field of of biomass fuels synthesis. John Gordon, one of the lead authors, stated that these findings provide a mean for reducing greenhouse gases production.
Current technologies usually require high temperatures and pressure, making the conversion a very expensive process.
Thanks to the scientists and their method, however, a better, non-precious-metal catalyst may now be designed. Processes that transform large quantities of biomass into fuel are soon to emerge, because biomass molecules are now much more functional than they used to be
The findings were made possible through a method called “direct-ring opening,” which is essentially opening up furan rings of the molecule so that it is easier to transform. The researchers placed the four carbon and one oxygen atom rings into a linear chain, which is a necessary step for producing energy-dense fuels. These chains are then reduced and deoxygenated into alkanes used in diesel fuel.
The conditions under which the reaction occurs are very mild, and the only need is the very common reagent hydrochloric acid as a catalyst.
The process was tested on a number of biomass-derived molecules and calculated the selectivity and mechanism of the reaction.