HYDERABAD: Researchers at IIT Hyderabad have developed a simple and innovative method to synthesise a catalyst that can convert chemicals derived from biomass into a precursor to diesel and jet fuel, the institute said on Tuesday. This catalyst showed better efficiency and selectivity than commercial catalysts to produce C15 oxygenated hydrocarbon, a biofuel precursor.
The researchers described the novel process that can produce carbon catalysts at room temperatures using sugar, sulphuric acid and salt in the journal ‘ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering’. “The dehydration of sugar by concentrated sulfuric acid is high-school chemistry. But the intense heat released is not well-controlled,” explained Dr Atul Suresh Deshpande, assistant professor at IIT-H.
In order to control the exothermic dehydration of sugar, the researchers add common salt. Salt helps in controlled dehydration of sugar, which leads to formation of the desired carbon nanoplates. “Due to the low cost of precursors with practically zero energy input and simplicity of reaction, this process of producing carbon nanoplates can be easily adapted for large-scale commercial production,” added Prof Sunil Kumar Maity.
This development is important for States such as Uttar Pradesh and the two Telugu states which are the largest producers of corn in India. The large amount of corncob waste can now be converted into fuels and allow additional income for farmers of corn, provide a sustainable energy source and reduce carbon footprint in the automobile/ aviation sector.