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Turning Cellulose into Gasoline and More

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 06:52AM

One of the reasons so many materials are made from petrochemicals is because oil contains long chains of hydrocarbons. Synthesizing similar hydrocarbon chains has traditionally been all but impossible, but that has been changing of late. Now researchers at KU Leuven have found a way to convert cellulose into these materials, and with one more step, into gasoline.

Cellulose is a very common chemical on Earth because of its role in plant life, and it is already made of long chains of hydrocarbons. The catch is that it also has a lot of oxygen bonded to it, which has to be removed before being converted into petrochemicals. The researchers found a way to remove the oxygen though, such that waste materials like sawdust could be thrown into a chemical reactor with a catalyst, and at the right temperature and pressure, the desired hydrocarbons will be produced half a day later.

While using this method to produce gasoline is one application, it could also be used to create ethylene, propylene, and benzene, which can become rubber, plastic, nylon, insulating foam, and more.

Source: KU Leuven

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