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Iowa State researchers developing system to efficiently convert biomass to ethanol
Date:3/20/2008

The hydrogen and carbon monoxide in the synthesis gas would be reacted with a nanotechnology-based catalyst to produce ethanol fuel.

Lin said researchers have looked at catalysts to produce ethanol from synthesis gas for years. But there were some problems with the old chemistry and research progress has slowed since the early 1990s. The chemistry didnt produce the selective reactions necessary for efficient production. There were also issues with controlling those reactions.

But now, With the emphasis on biomass and biorenewables, I think there will be a renaissance of this research and technology, Lin said.

His idea for a new kind of catalyst is based on solid nanospheres just 250 billionths of a meter in diameter that have honeycomb channels running through them. Lin said those channels can be loaded with a metallic catalyst and other species that can promote higher reactivity and product selectivity. The new technology, because of the nanoporous structure and the unique spatial arrangement of the catalytic components, solves some of the selectivity and control problems of the old chemistry.

Lin has already worked on the synthesis gas-to-ethanol catalyst for a year and has filed a patent application.

Satrio, of Iowa States Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies, called the research collaboration a very exciting project. This is on the cutting edge of this technology.

The centers focus will be to develop a system that efficiently and economically produces clean synthesis gas thats ready to be reacted with Lins catalyst. Center researchers will use the two thermochemical technologies (fast pyrolysis and gasification) with the goal of developing a complete conversion system that makes economic sense for the future.

Transporting biomass to fuel production plants isnt easy or cheap because of the bulk and quantities involved. The Department of Energy has estimated a biorefinery would need at le
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Contact: Victor Lin
vsylin@iastate.edu
515-294-3135
Iowa State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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