The method is a departure from the established process of producing biodiesel, which is accomplished by reacting fats and oils with alcohols.
"Conventionally, when you are producing biodiesel from a feedstock that is rich in free fatty acids like microalgae oil, you must first separate the fatty acids that can ruin the effectiveness of the catalyst, and then you can perform the catalytic reactions that produce the fuel," said
Creating a bi-functional nanoparticle also improved the resulting green diesel. Using nickel for the fuel conversion alone, the process resulted in too strong of a reaction, with hydrocarbon chains that had broken down. The process, called "cracking," created a product that held less potential as a fuel.
"A very interesting thing happened when we added the component responsible for the sequestration of the fatty acids," said Slowing. "We no longer saw the cracking of molecules. So the result is a better catalyst that produces a hydrocarbon that looks much more like diesel. "
"It also leaves the other components of the oil behind, valuable molecules that have potential uses for the pharmaceutical and food industries," said Slowing.
But Slowing, along with
"As part of the mission of the DOE, we are focused on researching the fundamental science necessary to create the process; but the resulting technology should in principle be scalable for industry," he said.
The process is discussed in a paper, "Bifunctional Adsorbent-Catalytic Nanoparticles for the Refining of Renewable Feedstocks" published in 2013 in ACS Catalysis, and also in "Supported Iron Nanoparticles for the Hydrodeoxygenationof Microalgal Oil to Green Diesel" published in
A patent application has been filed for this technology; it is available for licensing from the
This research is supported by the
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