Catalysts convert bioethanol into butanol, biomass waste into high-value chemicals

November 16, 2020 |

In India, Tribune India reports that Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati researchers have formulated efficient ‘pincer’ catalytic systems that transform industrial/biomass wastes into valuable chemicals like lactic acid and hydrogen.

Such catalysts also efficiently convert bioethanol, a low-energy density fuel, into high-energy density butanol.

“Pincer catalysts are complex molecules in which, an organic moiety holds on tightly to a metal core, much like the claws of a crab,” Dr Akshai Kumar Alape Seetharam from the Department of Chemistry and Centre for Nanotechnology, IIT Guwahati, said in a statement.

The conversion of valuable intermediates such as glycerol and ethanol, produced during the processing of biomass, into industrially useful chemicals has elicited much interest worldwide, the team said.

Glycerol, for example, which is a by-product in biodiesel production, can be transformed into lactic acid and hydrogen, the former used extensively in food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and polymer industries, and the latter in the energy sector.

Likewise, ethanol obtained from biomass can be converted into high quality fuel.

While bioethanol has lower energy density than gasoline and corrodes engine parts when used directly, it can be transformed into higher energy butanol that is immiscible in water and non-corrosive in nature.

The conversion of glycerol and ethanol into such useful products hinges on the development of efficient catalysts that can bring about these transformations.

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Category: Research

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