- Number 339 |
- June 13, 2011
Argonne EFRC puts the fuel in biofuels
Recent discussions of methods by which biomass – grasses, trees, and other vegetation – could be turned into fuel make a lot of sense in theory. Plant matter is composed of energy-intensive carbohydrates, but even now scientists still don’t have the perfect solution for converting plant sugars into combustible fuels.
“There’s a real challenge in the catalysis and conversion process that we face, which is that nature and evolution have already fashioned far better catalysts than we could create on our own – namely enzymes,” said materials scientist Christopher Marshall, who leads the Institute for Atom-Efficient Chemical Transformations (IACT) at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory. “In order to aid the transition away from a petroleum-based economy, we have to take our cues from the catalysts that have existed for millions of years.”
Potential catalysts for biofuel production have traditionally come from the precious metals and their elemental cousins. According to Marshall, Argonne scientists have found an increasing spectrum of applications first for platinum, and then for a platinum-molybdenum hybrid.IACT was founded in 2009 as part of the DOE’s effort to establish a set of several dozen Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) around the country that would contain five-year interdisciplinary programs focused around discrete scientific challenges.
[Jared Sagoff, 630.252.5549,