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Research Projects - Characterization and Upgrading Pyrolyis Oils from Woody Biomass

Who’s Involved?

Research Introduction

We are working on ways to convert wood into fuels like heating oil and gasoline that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and, because wood is a renewable resource, it can reduce the effects of global warming.  When wood is heated without air, it forms an oily mixture of chemicals that are half carbon and half oxygen, called “pyrolysis oil.”  The oxygen reduces the energy content of the oil.  To convert pyrolysis oil into high quality gasoline, we are designing metal “catalysts,” materials that allow chemical reactions to occur at lower temperature (similar to those in a car’s catalytic converter), which will remove the oxygen efficiently. The chemical composition of the oil depends on the wood source and pyrolysis processing conditions, while the product quality depends on the upgrading process.

Research Details

The project involves experiments to characterize the chemical composition of the reactant and product mixtures as well as screening of novel mesoporous catalyst/support systems.  High throughput screening work on a microcalorimeter array focuses on the potential of catalysts to efficiently deoxygenate model compounds, such as furfural, without being poisoned by low-stability components of pyrolysis oil, like guaicol.  Experiments with an Altimira AMI-RH200 catalyst characterization system to test milligram quantities of high potential catalyst candidates with the model compounds are used to validate the screening and study reaction mechanisms.  Physical and spectroscopic analytical methods are required to determine the classes of organic compounds present before and after upgrading and to investigate fundamental aspects of surface adsorption and reaction.

What’s New on this Project?

This project was funded as part of a DOE EPSCoR Implementation Grant which started July 15, 2007.

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