Researchers at UC Davis have created a new process for “biogasoline.” The procedure effectively converts cellulosic and biomass materials — including waste from cities, farms and forests — into potential gasoline substances. The team of chemists who published their findings in the journal Angewandte Chemie include Professor Mark Mascal and co-author post-doctoral researchers Saikat Dutta and Inaki Gandarias.
“Most biomass-derived hydrocarbons are linear chain molecules, [related] to diesel and jet fuel, but not to gasoline, which requires branched molecules,” Mascal said.
Mascal’s method produces hydrocarbons that have this branched carbon chain, making the fuel available for gas-powered cars.
“The techniques where diesel-range straight chain hydrocarbons can be made from biomass which then have to undergo ‘cracking,’ a known technology in the petroleum industry, for the production of gasoline-range branched hydrocarbons. Our method allows the production of gasoline-range branched hydrocarbons directly from biomass without requiring further energy-intensive processing,” Dutta said.
Some biofuel processes require the biomass material to be converted into sugars for the purpose of fermentation. However, with the new method, the costly manufacturing step of sugar conversion and fermentation is eliminated.
Dr. Annaliese Franz, a professor in the Chemistry Department at UC Davis, researches biofuel production amongst other things.
“In order for renewable fuels to be competitive with current petroleum-based fuels, it is important to make the process cost-effective,” Franz said.
Mascal’s research group will continue to optimize their method and will also continue to work on their ongoing projects.
“We have filed a provisional patent with the help of UC Davis and are looking for a partner to further this research with the ultimate goal of commercializing the product. Since the products of our method are exactly the same as those of petroleum-derived gasoline, they can be seamlessly integrated in the current infrastructure,” Dutta said.
To the team’s knowledge, no other method exists which has such direct production of branched hydrocarbons. With the pursuit of commercialization and the manufacturing of gasoline-like biofuel, this UC Davis-born method has obvious potential.
“The market effect of this new approach to gasoline-like molecules depends entirely on any future commercial development. If a company takes this on and produces biogasoline from it, the effect could be considerable. We’ll just have to wait and see,” Mascal said.
UC Davis’ research in the chemistry department include a multitude of professors investigating the future and prosperity of biofuels. This biogasoline method is just one example of organic chemistry having real-world implementation and results.
“We hope that our method will prove to be a valuable step towards a green, sustainable world,” Dutta said.