Berkeley Lab researchers use atomic science to improve biofuel production

In California, researchers have revealed new atomic-scale details about pesky deposits that can stop or slow chemical reactions vital to fuel production and other processes. This disruption to reactions is known as deactivation or poisoning.

The research team employed a combination of measurements, including X-ray experiments at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), to gather the most detailed information yet on problematic carbon-based deposits called “coke,” and to find ways to prevent its formation or reduce its effects.

Detailed in the Nov. 23 edition of Scientific Reports, the study focused on deposits on HZSM-5, a common type of catalyst known as a zeolite that is used in biofuel production and in the refinery industry. Catalysts are materials that help to foster and speed up reactions without being used up in the process, and coke deposits in zeolites are a costly problem in petroleum refinement and in petrochemical production.

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