The biotech start-up Gevo has developed a proprietary catalytic process that transforms low-cost commercially available, or even waste by-product, renewable alcohols into renewable isoprene that would be expected to compete head-to-head on price with natural and petroleum-based chemical equivalents while reducing CO2 emissions.
Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden discovered how enzymes can perform their catalytical processes in a switchable ionic liquid, paving way for converting cellulose to valuable molecules and industrial products.
Findings published in the journal ChemSusChem.
Ionic liquids are salts in fluid form at room temperature – compared with regular cooking salt, sodium chloride, which melts at 800°C. This characteristic means that ionic liquids properties make them useful solvents.
Researchers discovered that hemicellulose, cellulose and lignin can be selectively separated and dissolved using a new type of so-called switchable ionic liquid. Further, enzymes can function in this particular ionic liquid.
“Our discovery is a scientific breakthrough! This is the launch that enables us to extract small key molecules directly from wood,” said the lead researcher Magnus Wolf-Watz.
Scientists have experimented for decades with a class of catalysts known as zeolites that transform alcohols such as ethanol into higher-grade hydrocarbons. As ORNL researchers were developing a new type of zeolite-based conversion technology, they found the underlying reaction unfolds in a different manner than previously thought.
Novel catalyst holds great promise for converting carbon dioxide into valuable chemicals [Registered]
Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have incorporated molecules of carbon dioxide reduction catalysts into the sponge-like crystals of covalent organic frameworks (COFs). This creates a molecular system that not only absorbs carbon dioxide, but also selectively reduces it to carbon monoxide, which serves as a primary building block for a wide range of chemical products including fuels, pharmaceuticals and plastics.