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‘Smart’ Process Could Boost Economics Of Biofuel Production

June 5, 2009

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory believe they’ve identified a simpler way to generate biofuels ““ a one-step process to convert cellulose found in plant material and other biomass into a chemical that can serve as a precursor to make fuels and plastics. A simpler process means scientists can provide alternatives to economists and investors who are looking to make smart decisions about biofuel production as fossil fuel resources become more limited.

On Monday, June 8, at the North American Meeting of the Catalysis Society, PNNL scientist David King will discuss recent work with copper and chromium chlorides in an ionic liquid called [EMIM]Cl. These recyclable catalyst components work more effectively in tandem to break down cellulose into glucose — and then convert the glucose into HMF, or 5-hydroxymethylfurfural, in a one-step process.

This single-step process avoids the hurdles of current multi-step approaches, and provides for the possibility of a cost effective HMF synthesis from cellulose.

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DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory




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