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PNNL details smart solutions for generating biofuels, cleaning dirty fuel, at catalysis conference

June 08, 2009 Share This!

“Smart” process may boost economics of biofuel production
PNNL’s one-step method converts cellulose into chemical feedstock fo

  • PNNL researchers have found a way for portable fuel cells to operate using even the dirtiest of fuels. When used in tandem with a JP-8 steam reformer (left), a compact desulfurization system (right) can purify even the most sulfur-laden fuels to make clean syngas.

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RICHLAND, Wash. – Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory believe they’ve identified a simpler way to generate biofuels – a one-step process to convert cellulose found in plant material and other biomass into a chemical that can serve as a precursor to make fuels and plastics. A simpler process means scientists can provide alternatives to economists and investors who are looking to make smart decisions about biofuel production as fossil fuel resources become more limited.

On Monday, June 8, at the North American Meeting of the Catalysis Society, PNNL scientist David King will discuss recent work with copper and chromium chlorides in an ionic liquid called [EMIM]Cl. These recyclable catalyst components work more effectively in tandem to break down cellulose into glucose — and then convert the glucose into HMF, or 5-hydroxymethylfurfural, in a one-step process.

This single-step process avoids the hurdles of current multi-step approaches, and provides for the possibility of cost effective HMF synthesis from cellulose.

Monday, June 8, 2009 at 2:10 p.m. in Grand Ballroom Salon A (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
OC09 ‘Single-step’ Catalytic Cellulose Conversion in Ionic Liquids

Dirty fuel? No problem!
New PNNL steam reformer system lets portable fuel cells use sulfur-laden JP-8

A new system developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory allows portable fuel cells to operate using heavy, dirty, JP-8 fuel – key for soldiers stationed overseas. JP-8 is commonly used worldwide in military applications, and sulfur level in the fuel can vary considerably from region to region. Purifying the fuel and converting it into a product that can be used to power fuel cells poses a challenge while in the field.

PNNL Scientist David King says production of clean hydrogen, or syngas, for portable fuel cell systems operating on JP-8 fuel is possible when using an integrated HDS/steam reformer system. The system is unique in its ability to operate at a small, portable scale, something that’s never been done before.

He also will describe how this technology may find application with regular road diesel fuel for non-military uses.

Friday, June 12, 2009 at 9:20 a.m. in Bayview Room (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
Integrated 10kWe Hydrodesulfurizer-Microchannel Steam Reformer for Fuel Cell Power from JP-8 and Road Diesel.

Tags: Energy, Fundamental Science, Biomass, Fuel Cells, Biofuel, Catalysis

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of about $950 million. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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