Ryan Loe, a chemistry graduate student in the Crocker group, submitted to the East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) has been funded to work on the project titled “EAPSI: Improving and Understanding the Catalysts Used to Convert Biological Oils to Diesel Fuel”. This funding will allow Ryan to visit the University of Queensland for a research stay this summer with joint support from National Science Foundation and the Australian Academy of Science. The project’s abstract is copied below:
Biodiesel constitutes the major renewable fuel derived from lipid-based feedstocks such as vegetable oils and animal fats; however, several issues hinder biodiesel from being completely fungible with traditional petroleum diesel. Biodiesel’s poor cold flow properties, storage stability, and engine compatibility problems stem from its oxygen content. Recently, attention has been shifted to develop a process for the removal of oxygen from lipid-based feedstocks to generate a renewable fuel that is chemically identical to petroleum derived fuels. The award will help investigate unique catalysts that are vital to this process by sending a graduate student, currently working at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER), to the Centre of Excellence for Functional Nanomaterials of the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia. The graduate student will work with the group of Dr. Jorge Beltramini at UQ to harness the materials, know-how and instrumentation available there to develop and understand new catalysts for the conversion of biological oils to diesel fuel.
Ni-based catalysts are attracting attention as some of the most promising formulations for the conversion of lipid-based feedstocks to fuel-like hydrocarbons. Nevertheless, important gaps in the fundamental understanding of several aspects of these catalysts remain, including the effect of the support porosity and morphology, catalyst preparation method, and the chemical and electronic state of both Ni and Ni promoters on the performance of these formulations. The project will include: 1) the synthesis of unique mesoporous supports; 2) the preparation of Ni-based catalysts using these supports via different methods; 3) the spectroscopic study of promoted and unpromoted catalysts to acquire basic knowledge of great importance and wide applicability for catalysis science and technology. Upon returning to the United States, not only will new know-how on synthetic techniques be available at CAER, but the catalysts synthesized at UQ will be screened for their ability to convert lipid feeds stocks to fuel-like hydrocarbons.