Robert Klie, associate professor of physics, and Randall Meyer, associate professor of chemical engineering, at the University of Illinois in Chicago are in the process of researching on new chemical manufacturing models that will boost the potential usage of ethanol and other fuel additives that are alcohol-based.
Presently, ethanol used as a fuel additive and claimed as a perfect alternative solution to reduce oil imports has been rebuffed as a costly solution for the current problem. In the USA, corn food supply material is often utilized as a normal raw material for the manufacture of ethanol. The fermentation process for such manufacture is inefficient and very slow; also the acid catalyzed procedure produces significant quantity of waste byproducts.
The researchers utilized rhodium, a rare metal as a catalyst and made the ethanol production process cheaper by utilizing non-food type of biomass such as switch grass instead of corn kernels as a source. They are making further researches to understand the efficient catalyst process of rhodium and to study its reciprocal actions as a catalyst metal at the atomic level along with other promoter elements such as vanadium and manganese.
Klie will research the atomic structures that figure at the surface by utilizing an aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscope at the UIC during the last part of this month. The microscopic instrument, first of its type utilized in a University in the world, will enable the researchers to observe individual atoms with unmatched resolution.
The researchers received a grant of $300,000 from the National Science Foundation to produce models, which can clarify the occurrences when the individual atoms or a group of these elements mix in certain ways under different temperature conditions.