Chemical Engineering Team Produce On-step Biofuel Process
Shawn Wasserman posted on November 20, 2014 |
Researchers at Purdue produce catalyst for scalable biofuel production.

H2Bioil process is a portable, single stage reaction producing liquid biofuel from any biomass. Image courtesy of Prof. Agrawal.

A chemical engineering team at Purdue University has discovered a method to produce biofuel from all biomass in a portable, single stage and scalable process. Rakesh Agrawal, Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, has reported that his team has filed a patent application and has demonstrated the method in his lab.

"The demonstration is a step toward commercialization … Because the process can produce hydrocarbons in a single tandem step, it clearly has a potential to have a positive impact on the biofuels sector," explained Prof. Agrawal.

Thanks to a new platinum-molybdenum catalyst, Prof. Agrawal’s team has developed the process they dubbed fast-hydropyrolysis-hydrodeoxygenation, or H2Bioil (H Two Bio Oil) for short. Using a biomass-processing reactor, designed after rocket technology, hydrogen is added to a mix of biomass. The feed is processed in the reactor under high pressure and a fast heating rate of 500  ͦ C/s (900  ͦ F/s) to produce various hydrocarbons.

Prof Agrawal said, "The successful lab-scale demonstration of the H2Bioil concept paves the way for rapid conversion of biomass species to liquid fuel and chemicals … Furthermore, we envision that the process can be built on a distributed scale for widespread use. Ultimately, with proper design, this concept is amenable to providing mobile plants that could be transported from one biomass-available site to another."

As the technology is envisioned to be portable, it will bypass a major financial limitation to many biofuel production scenarios, the transportation of the biomass. The transportation of liquid fuel is much more economical than the transport of bulk volume biomass. Therefore, by bringing the bioreactor to the biomass, the process is more economically feasible. The liquid product can then be transported to refineries much like traditional petroleum fuels.

Furthermore, the team has tested wood chips, corn stover, switch grass, wheat straw, rice husks, cellulose and poplar wood indicating that the process can use more biomass feed than many competing technologies.

“Critical to the technology is a new platinum-molybdenum catalyst and design of the hydropyrolysis reactor system. The new method offers advantages over conventional technologies because it produces biofuel from all biomass as opposed to a portion of the biomass such as cellulose or lignin only,” added Prof. Agrawal.

H2CAR process previously produced by Prof. Agrawal’s team is a two stage reaction. Image courtesy of Prof. Agrawal.

This isn’t the first biomass to liquid fuel breakthrough from Prof. Agrawal’s team. Earlier, they discovered a method called the "hybrid hydrogen-carbon process," or H2CAR. However, this was a two stage approach producing Syngas, which could then be processed into a liquid fuel.



For more information read the Green Chemistry journal or watch the video below.

Source Purdue Images courtesy of Prof. Rakesh Agrawal.

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