Sunday, February 22, 2009

Two step chemical process for Biofuel.!..

In one of my earlier blog article, have written about how a modified e-coli is used to make biofuel, but this time by chemical reaction that too in only two steps!. Something interesting, the key to the new process is the first step, in which cellulose is converted into the "platform" chemical 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), from which a variety of valuable commodity chemicals can be made. The significance of this research is in the fact that most of the groups have tried to either fructose/glucose, but this group lead by Dr. Ronald Raines, have tried to it starting from cellulose itself. The researchers have developed a unique solvent system, that makes this conversion possible. The special mix of solvents and additives, for which a patent is pending, has an extraordinary capacity to dissolve cellulose, the long chains of energy-rich sugar molecules found in plant material. Because cellulose is one of the most abundant organic substances on the planet, it is widely seen as a promising alternative to fossil fuels.

This solvent system can dissolve cotton balls, which are pure cellulose," says Raines. "And it's a simple system—not corrosive, dangerous, expensive or stinky.

This approach simultaneously bypasses another vexing problem: lignin, the glue that holds plant cell walls together. Often described as intractable, lignin molecules act like a cage protecting the cellulose they surround. However, Raines and Binder used chemicals small enough to slip between the lignin molecules, where they work to dissolve the cellulose, cleave it into its component pieces and then convert those pieces into HMF. In step two, Raines and Binder subsequently converted HMF into the promising biofuel 2,5-dimethylfuran (DMF). Though the over all yield is still to be improved, its a good beginning. Congrats Dr. Raines. More....

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