Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Coal-to-diesel Breakthrough Could Drastically Cut Oil Imports

Date:
April 14, 2006
Source:
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
Summary:
Researchers have developed a practical way to convert carbon sources, such as coal to diesel fuel, that could significantly cut America's dependence on foreign oil. The breakthrough technology employs a pair of catalytic chemical reactions that operate in tandem, one of which captured the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. They have revamped the Fischer-Tropsch process to the point where, for the first time, it becomes commercially viable for coal conversion.

Postdoctoral Associate Ritu Ahuja demonstrates catalyst material to graduate student Elizabeth Pelczar and Prof. Alan Goldman.
Credit: Joseph Blumberg

Professor Alan Goldman and his Rutgers team in collaboration with researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have developed a way to convert carbon sources, such as coal to diesel fuel.

This important advance could significantly cut America's dependence on foreign oil -- what President Bush called "an addiction" in his 2006 State of the Union address. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, our 286 billion tons of coal in the ground translate into energy reserves 40 times those of oil.

Goldman explained that the breakthrough technology employs a pair of catalytic chemical reactions that operate in tandem, one of which captured the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. This dynamic chemical duo revamps the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process for generating synthetic petroleum substitutes, invented in 1920 but never developed to the point of becoming commercially viable for coal conversion.

The FT process recently gained national attention through the efforts of Brian Schweitzer, governor of coal-rich Montana, who has been publicly extolling the potential of Fischer-Tropsch. The Goldman group's innovations eliminate shortcomings in the process that can finally make it a workable solution to dwindling domestic oil reserves.

"The key to energy independence in the next five decades is Fischer-Tropsch chemistry, amended and enhanced," said Goldman, a professor in the department of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. "The study of catalysts, the little molecular machines that control chemical reactions, is my field. With our new catalysts, one can generate productive, clean burning fuels with Fischer-Tropsch, economically and at unsurpassed levels of efficiency."

This discovery is reported in the April 14 issue of the journal Science by Goldman and his colleagues. The work grew out of a National Science Foundation-funded research consortium, the Center for the Activation and Transformation of Strong Bonds, based at the University of Washington.

Fischer-Tropsch yields a wide distribution of molecular weight hydrocarbon products but without any way to control the desired mix. The molecular weight is the weight of a molecule of a substance, or the sum of the weights of all atoms in the molecule. The low-weight and the high-weight Fischer-Tropsch products are useful -- the light as gas and the medium-heavy as diesel fuel, Goldman explained.

"The problem -- the greatest inefficiency of the process -- is that you also wind up with a substantial quantity of medium-weight products that are not useful and you are stuck with them," Goldman said. "What we are now able to do with our new catalysts is something no one else has done before. We take all these undesirable medium-weight substances and convert them to the useful higher- and lower-weight products."

Technically, this is accomplished by a catalyst that removes hydrogen from the molecules. This converts the hydrocarbons to olefins, products with double bonds which are necessary for the creation of the desirable, useful end-products. The beauty of the new process is that it is highly selective in which hydrogen atoms it removes from the hydrocarbons, channeling the reactions to produce specific, useful products.

The researchers combined this process with the action of a second catalyst, one which promotes olefin metathesis, for which the 2005 Nobel Prize was awarded. Metathesis means "to change places" and, here, the double-bonding atom groups change places with one another. Through this reaction, the second catalyst rearranges the molecular weight distribution of the olefins. The first catalyst then replaces the hydrogen atoms onto the new rearranged olefins; this returns the olefins back to their original hydrocarbon form, but now with a new, more desirable weight distribution.



Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. "Coal-to-diesel Breakthrough Could Drastically Cut Oil Imports." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060414014526.htm>.
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. (2006, April 14). Coal-to-diesel Breakthrough Could Drastically Cut Oil Imports. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060414014526.htm
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. "Coal-to-diesel Breakthrough Could Drastically Cut Oil Imports." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060414014526.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) Japan's bullet train turns 50 Wednesday. Here's a look at how it's changed over half a century — and the changes it's inspired globally. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) Police body cameras are gradually being rolled out across the US, with interest surging after the fatal police shooting in August of an unarmed black teenager. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) A ceremony marking 50 years since Japan launched its Shinkansen bullet train was held on Wednesday in Tokyo. The latest model can travel from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 319 miles, in two hours and 25 minutes. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robotic Hair Restoration

Robotic Hair Restoration

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A new robotic procedure is changing the way we transplant hair. The ARTAS robot leaves no linear scarring and provides more natural results. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins