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Catalytic Upgrading of Biocrude in High Temperature Water


The bio-crude produced by hydrothermal liquefaction of microalgae in high temperature water is viscous and tar-like. It contains a large amount of heterogeneous atoms including O, N, and S and they are known to make the oil unstable and with low heating values. To turn the bio-crude into transportation oil or more flowable feedstock that can be further treated in current infrastructures, catalytic upgrading of bio-crude is necessary. In these studies, hydrodeoxygenation (HDO), hydrodenitrogenation (HDN), and hydrodesulfurization (HDS) capabilities of various heterogeneous catalysts including noble metal catalysts and traditional transition metal catalysts will be investigated as well as the optimization of upgrading process parameters.

Catalyst Development and Kinetics for the Deoxygenation of Model Biomass Compounds in High Temperature Water

Project Lead: Jacob Dickinson

This research project is part of our algae-to-biofuels project. Recently, we have focused on the catalytic deoxygenation of benzofuran in supercritical water. Benzofuran is used as a model compound for oxygenated products that we have identified in algae bio-oil. Removal of oxygen from biofuels is important because it increases the energy density and flow properties of the oil, while decreasing corrosiveness. We have chosen to study this reaction in supercritical water because the effluent from the hydrothermal liquefaction of microalgae is commonly a difficult to separate oil/water emulsion. Removal of oxygen should help aid this separation as it removes hydrophilic functional groups.

Project Lead: Allison Wilson and Thomas Yeh

The goal of this research is to understand the upgrading of fatty acids by removing oxygen using early transition metal carbide and nitride catalysts in high temperature water. Fatty acids are commonly found in the biocrude of many different renewable biomass feedstocks (i.e. microalgae and other high oil content crops). This research consists of experimental work focusing on both reaction engineering and catalysis. This project will investigate the reaction kinetics and pathways of the hydrothermal removal of oxygen from palmitic acid and other model compounds before applying these techniques to actual biocrudes. Furthermore, the catalytic mechanisms of the carbides and nitrides and their role in this reaction will be studied.

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