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Biomass and solar power can be turned into hydrogen and diesel fuels

Biomass and solar power can be turned into hydrogen and diesel fuels. Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed a technique to convert the energy from biomass and light sources into diesel fuel and hydrogen. The work may introduce a way to generate clean energy using solar power and sustainable carbon sources present on the Earth’s surface.

Biomass is a renewable energy source that is widely available in wood, animal manure, and in agricultural crops and waste material. Biomass is a good candidate for replacing petrochemicals, such as petroleum and fossil fuels, to provide abundant derivative products. As an alternative to photocatalytic water splitting, the splitting of biomass usually yields higher rates of hydrogen production.

However, oxidative products derived from biomass are essentially useless, resulting in the loss of sustainable biomass resources and environmental pollution. Experts are working to develop technologies that merge hydrogen production and biomass conversion into value-added chemicals or fuels to bring about a “double guarantee” of materials and energy.

A team led by Professor WANG Feng has now created a method which uses light energy to enhance downstream biomass products so that hydrogen and diesel fuel can be produced simultaneously.

To test the new technique, the reactions were carried out at room temperature and pressure. The reactions successfully delivered hydrogen and diesel fuel precursors that are constituted by isomeric oxygenates with a variety of carbon numbers typical of diesel fuel.

By removing the oxygen contents from the diesel fuel precursors, the experts were able to produce sustainable diesel fuels with components similar to those currently found in petroleum diesel. According to the researchers, the hydrogen could be used to remove the oxygen from the diesel fuel precursors or could be used alone.

The study is published in the journal Nature Energy.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: Shutterstock/tchara

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