Friday, 19 Sep, 2008 Science

Scientists Managed to Turn Sugar into Gasoline, Diesel and Jet Fuel


This month two team of scientists managed to transform sugar, gained from agricultural waste, into a wide range of different chemicals, including jet fuel, diesel and gasoline.

The discovery was made by a research team composed of Randy Cortright, a chemical engineer, and his associates at Virent Energy Systems of Madison, Wisc., and scientists headed by James Dumesic of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, a chemical engineer supported by the National Science Foundation. The teams stated that now sugars and carbohydrates can be used to create many different products which would be used in pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

The core of the whole transformation from sugars into chemicals is a process called aqueous phase reforming, which was developed by Dumesic and Cortright.

Industrial communities pay a lot of attention to different methods of producing green gasoline, like aqueous phase reforming. This is because such approaches generate a product that can be used within an existing infrastructure and what is most important is that it can be produced from plants grown in marginal soils, such as switchgrass.

Despite the fact that researchers still require some time to refine the process, the whole idea that gasoline and other important chemicals can be made from renewable plants has sparked interest in various industries.

Thanks to BioForming, the process developed by Virent, the company can now concentrate on commercialization and competitiveness in the United States.

"The early support of NSF helped lay the groundwork for our technical, and subsequent industrial, successes. Our scientists now have years of expertise with our BioForming process and are rapidly moving the technology to commercial scale. We are quickly working to put our renewable, green gasoline and other hydrocarbon biofuels in fuel tanks all over the world," said Cortright, who also holds the position of chief technology officer at Virent Energy Systems.

"The technology developed by Virent is extremely promising, and has been refined over the last six years. The aqueous phase reforming process used by both research is an innovative approach that may yield an important, positive impact on the energy demands of the U.S. and worldwide," stated Rose Wesson, the NSF program officer who administered Virent's grant.

Source: National Science Foundation

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