A wide range of plant materials can be turned into biofuels thanks to a major discovery, allowing the plant to turn molecules, such as lignin, in liquid hydrocarbons. As a result, the reaction lignin contained, for example, sawdust, becoming the chemical precursors of ethanol and biodiesel.
In recent years, the threat of global warming and the shortage of conventional fuels led to the spread of biodiesel in the transport sector. But as the human digestive system, splitting complex molecules such as cellulose or lignin is difficult. Therefore biofuel industry drew attention to such crops as maize and sugar beet, using them as raw materials for reactions. But while taking food to the starving regions of the planet and causing the growth of food prices.
Second Generation Biofuels can reduce the load on crops by splitting large molecules - hundreds of millions of dollars invested in research to reduce the cost to produce ethanol from cellulose. But cellulose is able to solve only part of the question. Lignin, a component of wood, is another important component, and use it to produce liquid fuels can release part of the harvest.
In doing so, lignin - is a complex molecule, and available methods split in unpredictable ways at a multitude of substances, some of which can only be used for biofuel production. Yuan Kou (Yuan Kou) from Beijing University, together with his colleagues have developed the technology for expansion lignin alkanes and alcohols.
Lignin is composed of carbon-oxygen-carbon (C-O-C) compounds that are associated with short hydrocarbon chain. The gap ties P-O-S is a way to release hydrocarbons, which would then be involved in the production of alkanes and alcohols. But within the limits of ties carbon-hydrogen (C-N) are also located connection S-O-C, which are important for the production of alcohols. The objective is to destroy some of communication and simultaneously to retain others.
Scientists Peking University, using previous experience on splitting ties P-O-C, opted for hot water, under pressure from oversupply, as the best solvent for the reaction. Water is almost a critical level at a temperature of 250-300 ° C and external pressure of 7 MPA. In these circumstances, and in the presence of the necessary catalyst and hydrogen lignin breaks its monomers and dimers.
Researchers have experimented with different catalysts and organic additives to optimize the reaction and stopped on a combination of platinum-carbon catalyst and dioksana, which provides a large number of monomers and dimers.
In ideal conditions, which theoretically possible to achieve, the massive share monomers will be 44-56% and dimers - 28-29%. In Beijing University came very close to these indicators - output amounted to 45% of monomers and dimers - 12%.
The allocation of hydrocarbons from water solution is fairly simple - you need to cool the water, and the necessary hydrocarbons automatically separated from the water. And then you can easily convert these monomers and dimers in the necessary products. As a result, can be obtained from alkanes 8-9 carbon chain to produce gasoline, saturates 12-18 in the long chain of carbon atoms for diesel and methanol.
Much of the source material turns into useful products, researchers say. But this work is still in the very beginning of his ways, so some aspects of the economic problems will be evaluated in the future. But now, many scientists believe the outcome of the experiment a huge breakthrough and seriously expect to use them in practice.