Scientists at Katholieke University found new method to turn sawdust into petrol

Nov 27, 2014 18:40 IST

Scientists at Katholieke University in Belgium have found new method to convert sawdust into building blocks for petrol. The research was published in the September 2014 issue of journal Energy & Environmental Science.

The new method to derive these hydrocarbon chains from cellulose was developed by researcher Beau Op de Beeck.

The process used
Cellulose is the main substance in plant matter and is present in all non-edible plant parts of wood, straw, grass, cotton and old paper.

With the right temperature and pressure, it takes about half a day to convert the cellulose in the wood shavings into saturated hydrocarbon chains, or alkanes. These hydrocarbons can be used as an additive in gasoline, or as a component in plastics.

In order to turn sawdust into hydrocarbon chains or high liquid alkane yields, scientists used a new chemical process to convert the cellulose.

Firstly, they converted cellulose to glucose and then to HMF by gradually heating the reactor. Secondly, they adopted a proper hydrothermal modification of commercial Ru/C to tune its chemoselectivity to furan hydrogenation rather than glucose hydrogenation. Finally, they used a biphasic reaction system with optimal partitioning of the intermediates and catalytic reactions.

The result is an intermediary product that requires one last simple step to become fully-distilled gasoline.

The green hydrocarbon can also be used in the production of ethylene, propylene and benzene - the building blocks for plastic, rubber, insulation foam, nylon, coatings and so forth.

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