U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Bioenergy Technologies Office

National Laboratory Announces New Potential Approach to Creating Hydrocarbon Fuels

May 15, 2013

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)—one of the Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) research partners—published a report in the Nature Chemistry journal that describes a new approach to creating hydrocarbon fuels.

“The Hydrodeoxygenation of bioderived furans into alkanes” discusses the research and testing LANL has done to create a new compound carbon molecule. This molecule is created through a new process, in which glucose- or cellulose-based molecules are merged with alternative molecules derived from biomass. The compound molecule—also known as a linear alkane—is then converted into hydrocarbons that are similar to those found in gasoline and diesel. The similarity is comparable enough that, once refined, the process could be used to produce drop-in fuel replacements or valuable bioproducts, such as polymers.

In addition to offering great potential as a drop-in fuel, preliminary research shows that the new approach uses less energy and has a higher conversion rate than preexisting technologies. A higher conversion rate creates purer products, which could potentially lower the cost of processing and refining. The method can also be applied to a variety of molecules derived from biomass, opening the door to broader applications in the future. The team from LANL will be continuing its investigation of this new process and will place particular emphasis on improving the reusability of catalysts and scale-up methods.

To learn more about LANL’s novel approach, read their article in the Nature Chemistry journal.