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The quest for environmentally benign long-term alternative energy resources continues to be attractive to both academia and industry. In recent years, one does not need to delve any deeper into the future to foretell society’s insatiable demands for these alternative energy resources in our day-to-day livelihood and the concomitant indispensable role environmental catalysis contributes in this interplay.

The 24th North American Catalysis Society Meeting held on June 14-19 of 2015 in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, brought together cutting-edge researchers in academia and industry. This meeting showcased premier scientific events in the field of catalysis research and development in 2015, and also featured technological challenges, breakthrough discoveries, and state-of-the art academic and industrial research.

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Conference photo from 24th North American Catalysis Society Meeting website: http://www.nam24.org/photos/

It was a great privilege to be a part of this event, which was made possible through the prestigious sponsorship from BioFuelNet Canada. Adequate funds were made available to cover all my international expenses (travel, hotel, food, etc) and to present my work on “Comparative study of acid and base-treated ordered mesoporous carbon supported KCoRhMoS2 catalysts for higher alcohols synthesis”, which was very well attended with lots socializing and networking opportunities.

My research on higher alcohols as fuel

Indeed, “green” alternative energy resources such as ethanol (C2 alcohols) and higher (C2+) alcohols or so-called “mixed alcohols”, tend to be the “next big thing” to happen in the field of liquid transportation fuels production and utilization. They are derived from bio-syngas conversion and continue to hold the torchlight in meeting high alternative energy demands for the future. It deserves mentioning that a recent scientific testing has shown that there are clear advantages of using higher alcohols as additives to gasoline fuel. For instance, a report from the US Department of Energy on mixed alcohols’ addition to gasoline showed significant improvement in the fuel quality assessed. It is also a common knowledge that mixed alcohols enhances gasoline octane and decreases engine emissions.

In order to have the perfect working conditions for typical internal combustion engine, one needs a good deal of power and torque. That notwithstanding, the fuel that powers the engine becomes “the heart” of the machine, which  ensures seamless operation of the vehicle. In this regard, mixed alcohol fuels are envisaged to have the propensity to deliver reliable and consistent energy needs to power our internal combustion engines.

Mixed alcohols, especially ethanol and C2+ alcohols (higher alcohols) for clean liquid transportation fuel applications are desirable due to their high energy content, “greenness”,  and lower carbon footprint, as compared to conventional fossil fuels derivatives. In the light of this, the conversion of syngas to higher (C2+) alcohols using various catalytic systems comes in handy to provide possible solution to future energy security.

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Higher alcohols provide a promising option for alternative fuel production, since these products are greener (sulfur and nitrogen-free) compared to the conventional fossil-derived gasoline. As a result, they could be easily incorporated as additives into the gasoline mix or directly be employed as fuel and subsequently integrated in existing transportation infrastructures.

My Ph.D project, partially sponsored by BioFuelNet Canada, investigates development of novel carbon-supported KCoRhMo catalytic system to enhance the product selectivity of higher alcohols, especially ethanol, via the conversion of syngas. Our previous work on this catalytic system, using multi-walled carbon nanotube as a support, has already been awarded a patent right. My contribution to the present research explores carbon nanohorns (CNHs) and ordered mesoporous carbons (OMCs) as support materials for catalysts formulation and potential improvements in product selectivity, which have been observed to occur by using these supports for syngas conversion to higher alcohols.

The outlook of this research is worth looking forward to for our future energy growth and for the security of the oil and gas sector. Major grants and funding from BioFuelNet have been forthcoming in the realization of our milestones, and we hope that it continues through the tenure of this project.

 

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