There is a breakthrough for a powerful, low-cost method for recycling used cooking oil and agricultural waste into biodiesel, and turning food scraps and plastic rubbish into high-value products.
Waste cooking oil currently has to go through an energy-intensive cleaning process to be used in biodiesel, because commercial production methods can only handle pure feedstocks with 1-2% contaminants.
The new catalyst can make biodiesel from low-grade ingredients, known as feedstock, containing up to 50% contaminants. It could double the productivity of manufacturing processes for transforming rubbish like food scraps, microplastics and old tires into high-value chemical precursors used to make anything from medicines and fertilizers to biodegradable packaging.
Catalyst Sponge: Advancing Green Chemistry
They created a micron-sized ceramic sponge (100 times thinner than a human hair) that is highly porous and contains different specialized active components. Molecules initially enter the sponge through large pores, where they undergo a first chemical reaction, and then pass into smaller pores where they undergo a second reaction.
It’s the first time a multi-functional catalyst has been developed that can perform several chemical reactions in sequence within a single catalyst particle, and it could be a game changer for the $US34 billion global catalyst market.
Co-lead investigator Professor Karen Wilson, also from RMIT, said the new catalyst design mimicked the way that enzymes in human cells coordinated complex chemical reactions.
The new catalysts can be used immediately for biodiesel production and with further development they could be easily tailored to produce jet fuel from agricultural and forestry waste, old rubber tires, and even algae.
The next steps for the RMIT School of Science research team are scaling up the catalyst fabrication from grams to kilograms and using 3D printing technologies to enable commercialization.
Complex organic molecules are of great importance to research and industrial chemistry and typically synthesized from smaller building blocks by multistep reactions. The ability to perform multiple (distinct) transformations in a single reactor would greatly reduce the number of manipulations required for chemical manufacturing, and hence the development of multifunctional catalysts for such one-pot reactions is highly desirable. Here we report the synthesis of a hierarchically porous framework, in which the macropores are selectively functionalized with a sulfated zirconia solid acid coating, while the mesopores are selectively functionalized with MgO solid base nanoparticles. Active site compartmentalization and substrate channelling protects base-catalysed triacylglyceride transesterification from poisoning by free fatty acid impurities (even at 50 mol%), and promotes the efficient two-step cascade deacetalization-Knoevenagel condensation of dimethyl acetals to cyanoates.
SOURCES- RMIT University Australia, Nature Catalysis
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.copm
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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