Friday, April 10, 2009
GREEN PETROL-say gud bye to petrol crisis
Scientists at University of Massachusetts-Amherst in the US have announced the creation of petrol from plant matter, with almost no carbon footprint. The “green petrol” – as the researchers describe it – is identical to standard petrol, yet created from sustainable biomass sources like switchgrass.It may take five to 10 years for the green petrol to arrive at the pump or find its way into a fighter jet, his team’s work has bypassed significant hurdles to bringing green petrol biofuels to market. It is likely that the future consumer will not even know that they are putting biofuels into their car. Biofuels in the future will most likely be similar in chemical composition to petrol and diesel fuel used today. The challenge for chemical engineers is to efficiently produce liquid fuels from biomass while fitting into the existing infrastructure today.For thIS new approach, the researchers rapidly heated cellulose in the presence of solid catalysts – materials that speed up reactions without sacrificing themselves in the process – and then rapidly cooled the products to create a liquid that contains many of the compounds found in petrol. The entire process was completed in about two minutes using relatively moderate amounts of heat, said the researchers. According to them, the compounds that formed in that single step, like naphthalene and toluene, make up one fourth of the suite of chemicals found in petrol. The liquid can be further treated to form the remaining fuel components or can be used “as is” for a high-octane petrol blend, they add. “Green petrol is an attractive alternative to bioethanol since it can be used in existing engines. In theory it requires much less energy to make than ethanol, giving it a smaller carbon footprint and making it cheaper to produce.Thos method does not require any external energy. In fact, from the extra heat that will be released, you can generate electricity in addition to the biofuel. There will not be just a small carbon footprint for the process; by recovering heat and generating electricity, there won’t be any footprint. They are now working with a host of leaders from academia, industry and government to make green petrol a practical solution for the impending fuel crisis. Scientists are currently working on understanding the chemistry of this process and designing new catalysts and reactors for this single step technique. This fundamental chemical understanding will allow us to design more efficient processes that will accelerate the commercialisation of green petrol.