Cleaner fuel gets research booster

The research by K. Alekhya, professor Sunil Kumar Maity, D. Damodar and two others is published in a peer-reviewed journal.  

In a development that could bring cheer to Indian farmers, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad (IIT-H) have developed a simple method to synthesise a carbon catalyst that can convert chemicals derived from biomass into biofuel precursors.

The team has developed a novel process to produce carbon catalysts at room temperatures using simple materials – sugar, sulphuric acid and salt. They have shown that their catalyst has better efficiency than commercial catalysts to produce the desired C15 oxygenated hydrocarbon, a precursor to diesel and jet fuel. This development is important as States like Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh and Telengana, the first and second largest producers of corn in the country respectively, produce a large amount of corncob waste. This can be converted into valuable fuels instead of being burnt.

The cheap and efficient catalyst developed by the institute can enable conversion of it into biofuel (fuel from biological sources rather than fossil fuels) and provide an additional earning opportunity for the corn farmer, besides being a sustainable energy source. The research was led by Atul Suresh Deshpande, assistant professor, department of materials science and metallurgical engineering; Sunil Kumar Maity, department of chemical engineering and their students — D. Damodar, K. Alekhya and V. Mohan.

The research paper detailing the synthesis procedure and catalytic efficiency of the material produced, was recently published in the reputed peer-reviewed journal, ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering.

“Dehydration of sugar by concentrated sulphuric acid is high-school chemistry. Intense heat is released turning sugar into carbon in this reaction without external heating. But this process is not well controlled and the resultant carbon does not have uniform micro-structure and catalytic prowess,” said Dr. Atul Suresh Deshpande.

To control the microstructure of carbon during sugar dehydration, researchers added common salt leading to formation of carbon nanoplates – plate like structures hundred thousand times smaller than the human hair.

These structures and surface area covered by sulfonate groups makes it an active catalyst, added Dr. Sunil Kumar Maity. This novel approach can be further modified to obtain other types of nanostructured carbon materials useful in many applications and can be easily adapted for large-scale commercial production, they said.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 3:02:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/cleaner-fuel-gets-research-booster/article28763824.ece

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