By Will Soutter
A breakthrough in the research carried out by engineers at the University of Minnesota could translate to huge cost savings for consumers of fuel and pharmaceutical industries. The team led by Professor Michael Tsapatsis has developed a catalyst that dramatically improves efficiency of fuel synthesis.
The gasoline refining process mandatorily needs catalysts to convert the oil molecules into an utilizable form. Tsapatsis draws parallels between gasoline synthesis using the new catalysts and using the freeway. Similar to how freeways help in reaching the destination faster than side streets allow, the new catalysts which are like the freeway help the molecules move faster than allowed by conventional catalysts similar to side streets.
The new catalyst was developed from Zeolite nanosheets grown at an angle of 90 degrees. The unique structure which is similar to a house of cards improves speed, selectivity and stability of the catalyst while keeping the costs low. The improvement in speed without a corresponding increase in cost will cause subsequent improvement in production per manufacturing dollar. The benefits of increased output can be passed on to the consumer. The study is built upon previous research at the University on application of Zeolite nanosheets as molecular sieve in the manufacture of fossil-based and renewable fuels. Both the developed applications have been licensed by Minnesota based Argilex Technologies. The team has completed the development of the catalyst and it is now available for user acceptance testing.