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Fuels – Higher-yield catalyst

An ORNL research team is investigating new catalysts for ethanol conversion that could advance the cost-effective production of renewable transportation. Credit: Unsplash

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have developed a new catalyst for converting ethanol into C3+ olefins – the chemical building blocks for renewable jet fuel and diesel – that pushes the amount  produced to a record-high 88%, a more than 10% gain over their previously developed catalyst.

Increasing the yield from this conversion can advance cost-effective production of renewable transportation fuels.

In the search for new catalysts, ORNL’s Zhenglong Li achieved the record yield by exploring a new reaction pathway using a metal mix of copper, zinc and yttrium. His experiments add to fundamental understanding of how various metals behave in complex chemical reactions while also indicating potential for developing new catalysts and reducing carbon deposits that decrease yield in the catalysis process.

The new research builds on previous work with a conversion process now licensed to Prometheus Fuels and more recent research using a zinc-yttrium beta catalyst combined with a single-atom alloy catalyst.