Scientists develop diesel that emits far less CO2

December 10, 2015

Researchers from KU Leuven and Utrecht University have discovered a new approach to the production of fuels. Their new method can be used to produce much cleaner diesel. It can quickly be scaled up for industrial use. In 5 to 10 years, we may see the first cars driven by this new clean diesel.

The production of fuel involves the use of catalysts. These substances trigger the chemical reactions that convert raw material into fuel. In the case of diesel, small catalyst granules are added to the raw material to sufficiently change the of the raw material to produce useable 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 .

The assumption has always been that the metal and the solid-state acid in the catalyst should be as close together as possible. That would speed up the by helping the molecules bounce to and fro more quickly. Professor Johan Martens (KU Leuven) and Professor Krijn de Jong (Utrecht University) have now discovered that this assumption is incorrect. If the functions within a catalyst are nanometres apart, the process yields better molecules for cleaner 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 . This goes against what the industry has been doing for the past 50 years."

The new method can optimise quite a few molecules in diesel. Cars that are driven by this clean diesel would emit far fewer particulates and CO2. The researchers believe that their method can be scaled up for industrial use with relative ease, so the new could be used in cars in 5 to 10 years.

The new technique can be applied to petroleum-based fuels, but also to renewable carbon from biomass.

The study was published in Nature .

Explore further: Video: Chemists develop new process for producing cleaner, cheaper diesel fuel

More information: Jovana Zecevic et al. Nanoscale intimacy in bifunctional catalysts for selective conversion of hydrocarbons, Nature (2015). DOI: 10.1038/nature16173

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6 comments

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MR166
1 / 5 (5) Dec 10, 2015
Humm, no mention of the chemical composition of this new "wonder fuel" and the reason it releases less CO2 when burnt.

Score yet another win for the big green machine and it's hyperbole.
cantdrive85
2 / 5 (4) Dec 10, 2015
Note to researchers, call VW engineering department, stat!
FainAvis
1.5 / 5 (2) Dec 11, 2015
Diesel is hydrocarbons I am sure. If you burn it in air you get CO2 and H2O, and a smaller amount of nitrogen oxides. Unless these folk declare the magical reaction that eliminates these gasses from the exhaust, I'll be with Emmet Brown on this. "I don't believe it!!" said he.
howhot2
5 / 5 (1) Dec 11, 2015
Well, at least the scientist are think about the quantity of CO2 from combustion, unlike the AGW deniers like @MR166 and the @cantdrive wingnuts.
katesisco
1 / 5 (1) Dec 13, 2015
Again, the opposite proves true. I wonder if my theory could be possible? That with the last solar reversal the emissions of the equatorial region known as a 'delayed solar reversal' have been maintained resulting in the opposite operation of normal interactions?
Shootist
1 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2015
Well, at least the scientist are think about the quantity of CO2 from combustion, unlike the AGW deniers like @MR166 and the @cantdrive wingnuts.


"Generally speaking, I'm much more of a conformist, but it happens I have strong views about climate because I think the majority is badly wrong, and you have to make sure if the majority is saying something that they're not talking nonsense." - Freeman Dyson.

If Freeman Dyson says your science is rubbish, it is.

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