Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Biomass to Diesel and Dimethylhydrotetrafuran


University of Wisconsin at Madison researchers have enlarged on earlier work where they produced gasoline from gamma valerolactone -- a biomass derived substance. They have now demonstrated the ability to make longer chain alkanes for diesel
In February, Dr. James Dumesic and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison published a paper in the journal Science describing a process to convert aqueous solutions of GVL, an intermediate produced from biomass-derived carbohydrates, to liquid alkenes suitable for transportation by using an integrated catalytic system that does not require an external source of hydrogen or precious metal catalysts.

In a new paper, published in the RSC journal Green Chemistry, Dumesic and colleagues focused on the production of alkenes in the range of C18–C27 from the oligomerization of C9 alkenes produced from biomass-derived GVL.

...The basic approach described by Dumesic and his colleagues is to hydrogenate levulinic acid—a product of biomass hydrolysis—to GVL (which is also used as a substitute for blending of ethanol in gasoline). The GVL is upgraded to C9 alkenes, which they then oligomerize over an acid catalyst to produce longer chain alkenes that, after hydrogenation, can be used as drop-in fuels. _GCC
This process is notable for not requiring an external source of hydrogen, and not needing platinum or other expensive catalysts.

Meanwhile at the University of Pennsylvania, a research team has devised a means of converting biomass and biomass derived sugars into dimethylhydrotetrafuran (DMTHF).
A team at the University of Pennsylvania has developed a one-step process for converting hexose from a wide range of biomass-derived carbohydrates, cellulose and even raw lignocellulose (e.g., corn stover) into 2,5-dimethyltetrahydrofuran (DMTHF) in good yields and under mild conditions in water. A paper on the work by Weiran Yang and Ayusman Sen was published online 30 April in the journal ChemSusChem.

...A one-step process generally requires less energy than processes that involve multiple steps, and the use of water as reaction medium is attractive, the authors note. In addition, a variety of feedstocks, including raw lignocellulosic biomass such as corn stover, can be directly used without any chemical pretreatment. _GCC
DMTHF is superior in some ways to DMF -- dimethylfuran -- which is itself significantly superior to ethanol. In other words, if DMTHF can be made from biomass efficiently, it stands to displace other less efficient biofuels such as ethanol.

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