Ethanol may soon have more uses than just as a fuel additive. Researchers have accidentally discovered an easier, more environmentally friendly biofuel catalyst.
They hope the new catalyst, called isobutene, will lead to more ways to use ethanol – from making rubber to solvents to aviation fuel. Currently, isobutene is derived from petroleum, releasing carbon dioxide and depleting fossil fuels.
But during hydrogen fuel experiments, researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., stumbled upon a new way to produce isobutene from ethanol in just one step. The lab’s Yong Wang says the discovery will open new doors for ethanol.
“You know, opportunities pass by everyone on a daily basis. It’s just whether you pay attention and grasp those opportunities,” he says.
Wang and other researchers are working to refine the process of making isobutene and improving its performance.
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