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Fundamental Catalysis Enabling a Zero-Carbon-Footprint Future
By Johannes Lercher

Carbon footprintEconomic wealth is directly correlated with the energy used to perform work, enable mobility, and provide the goods required to ensure the well being of individuals. Today, more than 80 percent of chemicals and energy carriers are synthesized from fossil (hydro)carbon resources, which has led to an unprecedented increase in the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Nearly all these chemicals and energy carriers are made using catalysis in at least one of the processing steps. Catalysis is, therefore, not only key to sustainable development, characterized by transition from the current fossil carbon-based energy carriers to a zero-carbon footprint energy future, but it will also secure energy independence. Read more.

Scale-up of Aviation Biofuels from Alcohols Reaching New Heights

aviation biofuels

Collaborating closely with industrial partner LanzaTech, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers recently reached a major milestone in the production of alternative jet fuels. Using industrial byproducts and a PNNL-developed catalyst in a two-stage process, the research team produced 5 gallons of synthetic paraffinic kerosene. While this may sound like a small amount of fuel, it's the required quantity available for the next stage of testing and scaling-up of production.

Over the course of a 10-hour flight, a passenger airliner burns roughly 36,000 gallons of fuel—about one gallon every second. With nearly 30,000 commercial flights taking off each day in the United States, developing cleaner alternative sources of jet fuel is a priority for the airline industry and DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO).

With funding from BETO, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has been working with industry-partner, LanzaTech, to convert alcohols derived from captured carbon monoxide, a byproduct in the production of steel, into synthetic paraffinic kerosene, a non-fossil-based jet fuel. The technology not only provides a viable source of sustainable jet fuel but also reduces the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere. Read more.

Five Cents About Nickel Catalysts

ACS videoAffordability is one of the greatest challenges to the spread of catalyst-based energy technologies. The main reason is the reliance on precious metals, such as platinum, whose market value is ~$950 an ounce. In industry, platinum-containing catalysts dramatically enhance the speed of different reactions to make a variety of fuel sources viable for harvesting energy.

Scientists at two Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis and the Inorganometallic Catalyst Design Center, have made advancements in developing nickel-based catalysts. Nickel, whose market price of less than $4 a pound, is an attractive alternative to expensive and rare metals. Using computational methods and experimental techniques, staff at these EFRCs have revealed important design principles for future nickel catalysts. Read more.

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