Recently, researchers have created a technique to generate hydrogen and diesel fuel by utilizing biomass-derived feedstocks and light energy (solar energy or artificial light energy).
The study outcomes have been reported in Nature Energy.
Biomass, comprising of agricultural straw and forest waste, is the major source of sustainable carbon resources in nature and can replace petrochemical resources to offer abundant derivative products.
Splitting of biomass or its derivatives generally produces higher light transformation efficiencies and higher rates of hydrogen production. It is regarded as an alternative to photocatalytic water splitting to produce hydrogen.
However, oxidative products obtained from biomass are often useless, resulting in the waste of sustainable biomass resources and environmental pollution. Thus, evolving technologies that integrate hydrogen production and biomass conversion into value-added chemicals or fuels is anticipated to result in a “double guarantee” of materials and energy for industrial manufacture and daily life.
Prof. WANG Feng and his team at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences created a process for using light energy to promote the valorization of downstream biomass products, such as methyl furan compounds, to generate hydrogen and diesel fuel precursors at the same time.
The reactions were conducted at room temperature and pressure, and produced hydrogen and diesel fuel precursors that are made up of isomeric oxygenates with a range of carbon numbers typical of diesel fuel. Elimination of the oxygen contents from the diesel fuel precursors yielded sustainable diesel fuels with components similar to existing petroleum diesel; hydrogen could be used alone or to eliminate the oxygen from the diesel fuel precursors.
This process achieves the directional conversion of biomass and light energy to hydrogen energy and diesel fuels and offers a method to generate clean energy using solar energy and sustainable carbon sources found on the earth’s surface.