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Scientists have developed a new technology which may bring a sea change in aviation industry and make flying cheaper.
A multi-university team lead by George Huber, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has developed a technology designed to transform lignocellulosic biomass into a jet fuel surrogate via catalytic chemistry.
This promising approach highlights the versatility of lignocellulose as a feedstock, researchers said.
Lignocellulosic biomass is an abundant natural resource that includes inedible portions of food crops as well as grasses, trees, and other “woody” biomass.
A key challenge in the biofuels landscape is to get more advanced biofuels – fuels other than corn ethanol and vegetable oil-based biodiesel – into the transportation pool, researchers said.
Lignocellulose can be processed to yield various transportation fuels and commodity chemicals. Huber’s team has presented a comprehensive approach towards streamlining biomass processing for the production of aviation fuels.
The proposed technology depends on efficient production of furfural and levulinic acid from sugars that are commonly present in lignocellulosic biomass.
The two compounds are then transformed into a mixture of chemicals that are indistinguishable from the primary components of petroleum – derived aviation fuels.
The work also identifies primary cost drivers and suggests that increasing efficiency in wastewater treatment and decreasing catalyst costs could reduce that amount to USD 2.88 per gallon.