From Sawdust To Petrol

As world governments mull over global emission targets agreed at last December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21), attention is turning to which new technologies can help them achieve this. Researchers at the University of Leuven say they have part of the answer, having devised a way to convert sawdust into valuable chemicals and […]

As world governments mull over global emission targets agreed at last December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21), attention is turning to which new technologies can help them achieve this.

Researchers at the University of Leuven say they have part of the answer, having devised a way to convert sawdust into valuable chemicals and the building blocks for gasoline. By developing a unique chemical process in their laboratory at the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis, outside Brussels, they can convert the lignin in sawdust into aromatic chemicals and the cellulose into hydrocarbon chains. The hydrocarbons can be used either as an additive in gasoline or as a component in plastics.

Cellulose is the main substance in plant matter, present in all non-edible plant parts of wood, straw, grass, cotton and old paper, and containing strong carbon chains. Researcher Beau Op de Beeck developed a new method to derive these hydrocarbon chains from cellulose, while removing the oxygen inside, deemed undesirable in gasoline. The university has a patent pending for its new type of bio-refining and built a unique chemical reactor.

Researcher Sander Van Den Bosch told Reuters that wood has three main components – lignin and two carbohydrate fractions, cellulose and hemicellulose. The cellulose is the key ingredient of these for making gasoline, but the lignin can also be converted into valuable chemicals for plastics or medicines.

“We add wood to a reactor and then we also need a catalyst, which is a specific material that will do the chemical reactions in the wood so it will selectively depolymerize our lignin material into chemicals; and then last but not least we also need solvent to extract the lignin out of the solid material and there we can use water for or also various kinds of bio-derived alcohols,” Van Den Bosch said.

From KFGO 790 AM: http://kfgo.com/news/articles/2016/jan/21/from-sawdust-to-petrol/

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