Researchers from KU Leuven and Utrecht University have discovered a new method in the production of fuels, resulting in a much cleaner diesel.
The diesel can be quickly be scaled up for industrial use and we may see the first cars driven by this new clean diesel in as little as five to ten years.
The production of fuel involves the use of catalysts. In the case of diesel, small catalyst granules are added to the raw material to sufficiently change the molecules of the raw material to produce usable fuel.
Catalysts can have one or more chemical functions. The catalyst that was used for this particular study has two functions, represented by two different materials: a metal (platinum) and a solid-state acid. During the production process for diesel, the molecules bounce to and fro between the metal and the acid. Each time a molecule comes into contact with one of the materials, it changes a little bit. At the end of the process, the molecules are ready to be used for diesel fuel.
“Our results are the exact opposite of what we had expected. At first, we thought that the samples had been switched or that something was wrong with our analysis,” says Professor Martens. “We repeated the experiments three times, only to arrive at the same conclusion: the current theory is wrong. There has to be a minimum distance between the functions within a catalyst. This goes against what the industry has been doing for the past 50 years.”
The new technique can be applied to petroleum-based fuels, but also to renewable carbon from biomass.