Boeing & SAA Collborate on BioJet Fuel From Tobacco

Boeing, South African Airways (SAA) and SkyNRG are partnering together to develop aviation biofuel from a specific type of tobacco plant. SkyNRG is currently expanding its production of Solaris, an energy crop hybrid derived from the tobacco plant. Pilot farming of the plant, which is effectively nicotine-free, is underway in South Africa with to end goal of producing advanced biojet fuel from the seeds. As the program expands, Boeing expects emerging technologies to increase South Africa’s aviation biofuel production from the rest of the plant.

The project is an effort to expand the support of South Africa’s goals for improved public health along with economic and rural development.

Tobacco Photos“It’s an honor for Boeing to work with South African Airways on a pioneering project to make sustainable jet fuel from an energy-rich tobacco plant,” said J. Miguel Santos, managing director for Africa, Boeing International. “South Africa is leading efforts to commercialize a valuable new source of biofuel that can further reduce aviation’s environmental footprint and advance the region’s economy.”

In October 2013, Boeing and SAA agreed they would work together to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain in Southern Africa. As part of that effort, they are working with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials to position farmers with small plots of land to grow biofuel feedstocks that provide socioeconomic value to communities without harming food supplies, fresh water or land use.

Ian Cruickshank, South African Airways Group Environmental Affairs Specialist said of the expanded project, “By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking. This is another way that SAA and Boeing are driving development of sustainable biofuel while enhancing our region’s economic opportunity.”

“We strongly believe in the potential of successfully rolling out Solaris in the Southern African region to power sustainable fuels that are also affordable,” added Maarten van Dijk, Chief Technology Officer, SkyNRG.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFPattern Energy Group LP has acquired the Logan’s Gap wind project from Pioneer Green Energy. Logan’s Gap is a 200 megawatt (MW) wind project to be built in Comanche County, Texas. As the developer of the project, Pioneer Green Energy began work of a significant nature in 2013 and executed a 10-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. for approximately 60% of the project’s expected production.
  • Pacific Energy Solutions (PES), an energy project development company specializing in renewable technologies, has entered into a binding contract with the U.S. Navy to supply approximately 30,400 MWh of electricity annually to the Navy for use by Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force activities in the State of Hawaii. PES will supply this electricity to the Navy over a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement term. A groundbreaking ceremony was conducted on July 24, 2014 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The ceremony was presided over by the Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Ray Mabus, who was joined by the Governor of the State of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie.
  • Sparq, Inc. a company focused on municipal and utility scale renewable energy, is now offering it’s solar energy service to residential customers beginning August 1, 2014. Sparq’s new Residential Solar Service will make it possible for homeowners across the Southwest to save thousands on their utility bills. Sparq’s existing partnership in the utility market will be expanded with Lightway Green New Energy Co. to provide high-standard solar panels and equipment designed specifically for residential applications.
  • From 2014 to 2035, worldwide gas consumption by the road transportation sector will fall 4 percent, the report concludes according to a new report, “Transportation Forecast: Global Fuel Consumption,” from Navigant Research. Gasoline consumption for road transportation will continue to rise through 2021, reaching 367.3 billion gallons a year, but then start to fall thereafter, declining to 348.1 billion gallons a year in 2035.

SG Preston Announces Renewable Diesel Project

SG Preston (SGP) has announced the planned development of a 120 million gallon renewable diesel facility in Lawrence County, Ohio. The $400 million bioenergy facility will be the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel when finished in 2017 according to SGP.

SG Preston logoThe company said a key component of the facility’s development is the licensing of their advanced process technology that has been successfully proven at commercial scale at other locations. According to SGP, this advanced technology efficiently converts waste feedstock into renewable diesel – chemically identical to petroleum-based diesel- and can be used as a drop-in replacement in vehicles. In addition, SGP said this technology allows them to customize its biofuel offering by adjusting fuel characteristics to meet various operating environments (extreme cold or heat) of the end user without diluting energy content in the GHG reduced fuel blend.

“For SG Preston, this is an important milestone and part of a larger vision of partnering with leading, global refining technology partners and local communities to develop a portfolio of renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel refineries targeting 1.2 billion gallons per year, or 20% of the federal RFS2 biomass-based mandate for biofuels,” said R. Delbert LeTang, CEO of SG Preston. “We see a blue sky opportunity to deliver customized, renewable fuel to government, the petroleum industry and other private users throughout the United States and we look forward to partnering with the people of southern Ohio to build new industries and new economic opportunity.”

Other partners in the project include the Lawrence County Economic Development Council, which is investing 62 acres in land and other incentives. The Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth and JobsOhio were also instrumental in securing the investment and technology to play a role in the future of southern Ohio.
Pre-engineering studies for the facility are expected to begin in September 2014, with commercial operations targeted for 2017.

Bill Dingus, executive director of Lawrence County Economic Development Council, added, “This project will be of significant economic importance to southern Ohio, bringing long-term employment and income to the region. We look forward to supporting the development of new energy technologies, and passing on the benefits of commerce and cleaner air to local residents.”

UC Riverside Researchers Enhance Biofuel Yields

University of California, Riverside researchers have developed a versatile, virtually non-toxic and efficient way to convert raw ag and forest residues along with other plant matter into biofuels and biochemicals. Professor Charles E. Wyman is leading the research team and their patent-pending method coined Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF) and they believe they are another step closer to solving the goal of producing biofuels and biochemicals from biomass and high enough yields and low enough costs to become viable.

“Real estate is about location, location, location,” said Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT). “Successful commercialization of biofuels technology is about yield, yield, yield, and we obtained great yields with this novel technology.”

Charles Cai UC RiversideThe key to the technology, according to Wyman, is using tetrahydrofuran (THF) as a co-solvent to aid in the breakdown of raw biomass feedstocks to produce valuable primary and secondary fuel precursors at high yields at moderate temperatures. These fuel precursors can then be converted into ethanol, chemicals or drop-in fuels. Drop-in fuels have similar properties to conventional gasoline, jet, and diesel fuels and can be used without significant changes to vehicles or current transportation infrastructure.

Compared to other available biomass solvents, THF is well-suited for this application because it mixes homogenously with water, has a low boiling point (66 degrees Celsius) to allow for easy recovery, and can be regenerated as an end product of the process, explained Charles M. Cai, a Ph.D. student working with Wyman.

The research, focused on lignin, was recently published in Green Chemistry: “Coupling metal halides with a co-solvent to produce furfural and 5-HMF at high yields directly from lignocellulosic biomass as an integrated biofuels strategy.”

ACE Celebrates “Power by People”

This morning during the opening session of the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference, the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) launched a new campaign featuring the people of ethanol. Their redesigned website features personal and authentic stories of the people who built and continue to innovate the ethanol industry. In addition, ACE released a new video, “The Home Place”.

ace14-jennings“Instead of keeping the industry’s most valuable players on the bench and pouring all our trust and money into playing defense with facts-alone, ACE’s Power by People campaign features the compelling and positive stories of the individuals and families who built the ethanol industry and those who support and continue to benefit from ethanol,” said ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings during his state of the union address this morning.

“The story of ethanol is a profile in courage about grassroots people who, without any precedent to guide them, set out with their families and neighbors to rescue their communities from economic disaster by building ethanol plants,” continued Jennings. “For far too long the stories of these people have gone untold, and that’s why ACE is launching the new Power by People campaign.”

Jennings said the organization has produced several video testimonials from people of all walks of life that ACE members can use to promote ethanol on their websites, through social media, and in meetings with the public. He also noted the group plans to continue and expand the campaign in the months ahead.

Listen to Jennings’ opening comments at the ACE conference: Brian Jennings, ACE Executive VP

View the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFDyadic International, Inc. has signed a collaboration agreement to commercialize second generation biofuel and bio-based chemical technology with Compagnie Industrielle de la Matière Végétale (CIMV). CIMV’s patented approach of separating the three main components of plant material allows both production of high quality cellulose and hemicellulose, especially well-suited for the enzymatic process, and Biolignin, a pure form of lignin that may be sold commercially as a high value, environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-derived chemicals. Under the collaboration agreement, Dyadic and CIMV will work together to develop more efficient, fully integrated processes to produce environmentally low impact biofuels and bio-based chemicals.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published a roadmap for America’s farmers and ranchers to measure their greenhouse gas emissions and evaluate opportunities for reducing them. The new Greenhouse Gas Report provides thorough guidelines for understanding how different management practices influence GHG emissions on farms, ranches and forests. By helping landowners better understand their impacts, farmers, ranchers and forest owners will be better equipped to calculate their emissions and account for these impacts through voluntary participation in GHG mitigation or carbon sequestration projects across the country.
  • Canadian Solar Inc. has supplied 4 MW of Canadian Solar PV Modules for the Spanish Town Estate Solar project, recently acquired by NRG Energy Inc. The project is located in St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands and utilizes 14,400 high-efficiency Canadian Solar CS6X-P 305 Polycrystalline PV Modules. Construction of the Spanish Town Estate Solar project began in April of 2014 and is expected to generate enough electricity to power more than 1,500 homes. It is expected to create nearly 100 direct and indirect jobs during construction and to inject a total of approximately $3 million into the local economy.
  • The California Energy Commission (CEC) awarded $4.3 million to Linde North America to construct retail hydrogen fueling stations in Northern California. The stations will be located at the Oakland International Airport and on Toyota owned property in San Ramon, California, adjacent to Toyota’s San Francisco Regional Office and Parts Distribution Center. The award is part of $46.6 million funding program the CEC has committed this year to expand the retail hydrogen fueling infrastructure within the state.

Report Shows Oil Companies Paid 11.7% Tax Rate

According to a new report from Taxpayers for Common Sense, oil companies paid only 11.7 percent of the U.S. income in federal taxes over the last five years. This is compared to the statutory 35 percent corporate tax rate paid by other companies.

“This is a perfect example of how the oil industry is allowed to play by a different set of rules than everyone else,” commented Jeremy Funk, communications director with the ETRcover4nonprofit organization Americans United for Change who supports choice at the pump through biofuels. “They can dodge billions of dollars in taxes, and Washington lets them get away with it. This is the same industry that is now fiercely lobbying the White House for yet another special interest favor: gutting the Renewable Fuel Standard and allowing more foreign oil into the U.S. gasoline supply at the expense of cleaner, cheaper renewable fuels made in America. Isn’t the system rigged enough in Big Oil’s favor without Washington helping them become a monopoly at the pump, too?”

The country is still waiting the final rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFs) that if passed as proposed, would reduce the amount of domestically produced biofuels at the pump while increase foreign oil. Funk points out that gasoline costs more than renewable fuels such as ethanol, and the EPA proposal would cost Americans millions of dollars at the pump, ‘killing’ American jobs. Funk also said that because the EPA proposal effectively allows oil companies to block access to the marketplace by refusing to install fueling infrastructure for renewable fuels, it will be particularly devastating to America’s emerging advanced biofuel industry.

To achieve such a low current tax rate, oil companies were able to take advantage of special tax breaks and loopholes that allowed them to defer more than $17 billion in taxes they would have otherwise owed, explained Funk. One “small” oil company, Apache, earned $6 billion in profits between 2009 and 2013 but deferred its entire tax bill. Not only did the company avoid paying any taxes, but it actually reaped a tax benefit worth $220 million according to Funk.

The report concludes with a damning indictment of the oil industry’s deceitful rhetoric about its tax obligations:

“Oil and gas companies may pay a lot in income taxes, but it is not to the U.S. government. Indeed, the “current” federal income tax rate of some of the largest oil and gas companies – the amount they actually paid during the last five years – was 11.7 percent. The “smaller” companies included in the study which reported positive earnings only paid 3.7 percent. Many of the tax provisions available to the oil industry are not available to other taxpayers, giving these companies a significant tax advantage. The language the industry uses gives the impression that it pays a high federal income tax rate. The American Petroleum Institute cites an industry-wide effective tax rate of 44.3 percent. In reality, the amount oil and gas companies pay in federal income tax is considerably less than the statutory rate of 35 percent, thanks to the convoluted system of tax provisions allowing them to avoid and defer federal income taxes.”

Students Present Research at Ethanol Conference

Several University of Minnesota students are giving the ethanol industry a preview of their cutting-edge research in biofuels, biochemicals and bioproducts during the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference in Minneapolis. One such student is Sahana Ramanna who is a PhD student who is working on improving the pre-treatment technologies used for biomass, specifically Aspen.

Sahana RammanaRamanna explained that one of the most difficult and energy intensive parts of converting biomass (aka cellulose) to sugar is in the initial phase. Using 3D imaging, similar to the technology used for brain scans, she and her team are able to test “pre-treatment” strategies and see how it affects the structure of the biomass.

Ultimately, Ramanna said they are looking to increase the amount of biomass that can be converted into biofuels and other biochemicals and products, thus increasing the amount of biofuels. In addition, the processes they are looking at would significantly improve the energy efficiency during this process. Next steps – refining the process for Aspen and then testing it on other forms of biomass.

Listen to Sahana Ramanna discuss her research here: Interview with Sahana Ramanna

Another student I spoke with is just beginning his PhD studies and has spent the last year working on an interesting biofuels project. Joseph Molde works in the BioTechnology Institute and he and his team are working on a process called hydrothernmal carbinization using distillers grains (DDGs), a bi-product of ethanol production.

Joseph Molde U of MWhat is really neat is the process is producing two new possible co-products: liquid carbon and biochar. The liquid carbon can be used as an organic fertilizer on fields, while the biochar can be used in various applications including biomaterials and biochemicals. Molde said that similar research has been taking place in Europe, but not much has been done with biochar here in the states.

Molde also noted that the process improves efficiency throughout the production process – just one more way the ethanol industry is working to improve its technology and environmental footprint – while also adding valuable additional co-products to an ethanol plant’s portfolio. He said they are scaling up the technology now and that he hopes to see it in commercial scale application in the next five to 10 years.

Listen to Joseph Molde discuss his research here: Interview with Joseph Molde

View the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.

Minnesota Gov Mark Dayton Kicks Off 27th ACE Conf

Minnesota Gov Mark DaytonThe 27th Annual Ethanol Conference kicked off last night with some brief remarks from Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) annual event, taking place at the Depot Renaissance Hotel, began with hundreds of ethanol advocates who heard from Governor Dayton that he appreciated ethanol producers, “for what you are doing,” to boost the nation’s energy independence, lower gas prices, and clean the environment.

Governor Dayton noted that ethanol enjoys overwhelming bi-partisan support in the Minnesota legislature “because we know it is good for Minnesota and the nation”. He noted that Minnesota is the nation’s fourth largest ethanol producing state and there is support for higher blends of ethanol, such as E15 and E85. He also advocated that every vehicle should be a flexible fuel vehicle (FFV), capable of burning higher blends of ethanol so consumers can have a choice at the pump.

Check out the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.

Ethanol Safety Seminars Head to Alabama & Kansas

The Ethanol Safety Seminars are heading to Alabama and Kansas. The first seminar will be held August 7, 2014 at the Alabama Fire College in Tuscaloosa and is co-hosted by Alabama Southern Railroad and the second seminar will be held on August 8, 2014 at Doster Community Center in Prattville and is co-hosted by Autauga Northern Railroad. Tuscaloosa is hosting two sessions: from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm and 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm.
Seminars are free, but registration is limited. Lunch and dinner will be provided. Certificates will be awarded to attendees at the completion of the course.

The Ethanol Safety Seminars then head to Kansas. The first seminar is August 11–12, 2104 at the Overland Park Fire Training Center near Kansas City co-hosted by the Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad with sessions from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. The next seminar is August 13, 2014 at the Webster Conference Center in Salina, followed by the final seminar on August 14, 2104 at Pratt Community College near Wichita. Both will be co-hosted by Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad and both will have morning sessions (9 am- 2pm) and evening sessions (5 pm- 10 pm).

Ethanol Safety Seminar LogoAll seminars are funded by a Federal Railroad Administration grant through TRANSCAER. RFA has been a TRANSCAER member since 2007.

The goal of these seminars is for attendees to gain full ethanol emergency response training experience that they can put to use immediately in the field as well as pass along to other first response teams. A majority of this training is based on the “Training Guide to Ethanol Emergency Response,” a training package created by the Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition (EERC) that has been distributed throughout the United States and to several countries worldwide.

“Rail has proven itself to be one of the safest modes of transportation for hazardous materials over the years,” said Jimmy Patterson, general manager at Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad. “We must be mindful of possible risks, however, and be ready to respond should an incident occur. The Ethanol Safety Seminars provide emergency responders with the training they need to effectively react to a sudden event.”

Attendees will receive in-depth information on proper training techniques that first responders and hazmat personnel need to effectively respond to an ethanol-related emergency. While primarily targeting first responders, hazmat teams, safety managers, and local emergency planning committees, it is also open to the general public.

“The public relies on the nation’s first responders to protect them during the worst of emergency events,” said Kristy Moore, RFA vice president of technical services. “With these seminars, RFA makes sure that personnel receive the training they need to tackle these safety challenges before venturing into potentially hazardous conditions.”

Invateus Solar Starts Solar Farm on Superfund Site

Inovateus Solar and participated in the development of a 43-acre ground-based solar array project sited on an existing Superfund Site with previous ground contamination. The Maywood Solar farm is located near Vertellus Specialties headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana and was supported by Indianapolis Power & Light’s (IPL) Rate Renewable Energy Production (REP) Program. The 10.82 MW project is part of a renewal energy production program administered by the Indianapolis Power and Light Company (IPL).

Maywood Solar FarmThe Maywood land is a Superfund project site that was remediated in 1992 under the supervision of the United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA) and Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), and is now in a monitoring-only status. The solar array was constructed by Hanwha Q CELLS USA along with the EPA, IDEM, IPL, and Vertellus Specialties Incorporated.

“We were excited to start the development of this project with Vertellus Specialties, and hand it over to Hanwha Q CELLS for completion,” said Inovateus Solar President T.J. Kanczuzewski. “This is another example of how public utilities and private companies can work together to achieve the goal of introducing more renewable energy in the state of Indiana. Our company is looking forward to making other announcements on projects built in the IPL Rate REP program soon.”

Under the voluntary feed-in tariff program, IPL will pay Hanwha Q CELLS 20 cents per kW hour for the project. A total of 100 MW of renewable energy projects are allowed under the IPL Rate REP program, of which Inovateus is involved with approximately 24 MW of qualified solar energy generation through the Maywood Solar Farm and other projects.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFYingli Green Energy Holding Company Limited has announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Yingli Green Energy International AG, has entered into a strategic alliance with AMB Energia Wytwarzanie , a subsidiary of AMB Energia S.A. to co-develop 30 MW of solar projects in Poland. Within the framework of the agreement, AMB Energia as a local partner will fully develop the projects with the support from Yingli throughout all project stages.
  • Finavera Wind Energy Inc. has announced it has received a final $16.5 million of consideration, primarily in the form of debt forgiveness, from Pattern Renewable Holdings Canada ULC, a subsidiary of Pattern Energy Group LP as the final amount payable under the Purchase and Sale Agreement for 184 megawatts (MW) of wind projects, previously announced on April 29, 2013. The final consideration has been received earlier than the anticipated date in Q1 2015, based in part on the successful development of the Meikle Project.
  • Boralex Inc., through its subsidiary Boralex Europe S.A., has acquired Calmont 14 MW wind power project in the Midi-Pyrénées region in France. With a 15-year power sales contract with EDF France, construction work on the Calmont wind farm will begin during the first quarter of 2015 with commissioning scheduled for year end 2015. In all, Boralex will invest approximately €25 million to complete this project. Calmont is located a few kilometers from Boralex’s Avignonet-Lauragais hybrid solar/wind site offering attractive operating synergy opportunities.
  • Amicus Solar Cooperative, a purchasing cooperative that is 100% owned and managed by its member companies, has obtained an initial allocation of $50 million for qualifying businesses desiring solar through LFC Capital’s Solar Ownership Program. This Amicus/LFC Capital collaboration represents the first round of a multi-stage rollout of program funds planned for future solar photovoltaic (PV) projects.

Amyris & GOL Take to the Skies with Biojet Fuel

Amyris along with Brazilian airline GOL have flown the industry’s first commercial flight with farnesane, a recently approved jet fuel. Flight 7725 left from Orlando, Florida July 30 at 5:15 pm ET and landed in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

GOL committed to fly its Boeing 737 fleet with up to a 10 percent blend of the renewable farnesane fuel starting with this initial flight on July 30, 2014. According to Amyris, Farnesane can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 80 percent compared to petroleum fuels. When blended with Jet A/A1 fuel at 10 percent, farnesane can also reduce particulate matter emissions, decreasing pollution near airports and major metropolitan areas.

The global aviation industry has committed to aggressive goals to reduce its GHG emissions, including achieving carbon neutral growth by 2020 and reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2005. In addition to improving the efficiency of airplanes and flight operations, this renewable biofuel represents a major opportunity for commercial aviation to reduce emissions. The approved renewable jet fuel is drop-in and can be blended directly with petroleum jet fuel without any changes to airplanes, engines or fueling infrastructure. Amyris will now begin to quantitatively measure the positive impact to GHG emissions and air quality with every flight using the renewable jet fuel.

Plug-In Electric Vehicles Talk in the Cloud

Plug-In electric vehicles (EV) will soon be “talking in the cloud” as Ford Motor Company collaborates with seven of the world’s largest automakers and 15 utility companies to develop technologies for EVs to talk to the utilities via the cloud. According to Ford, this would help manage energy use and improve the efficiency of the power grid.

The pilot program will create a standards-based communications platform for use by plug-in EVs and the electric grids. This platform will enable the utilities to contact vehicle customers who have opted-in to the program, sending a request for those cars to stop charging temporarily to help manage a grid that is DCF 1.0becoming overloaded. This approach uses existing communications technology and standards, such as Ford’s MyFord® Mobile App, and pushes to advance those systems by enabling two-way communication between the electric grid and electric vehicles.

“This innovative platform provides a critical enabler for the next step in vehicle electrification,” said Mike Tinskey, associate global director, Electrification Infrastructure for Ford. “It’s a way for plug-in electric vehicle drivers to be financially rewarded for their willingness to help manage the electric grid.”

Participating utility companies are prepared to offer financial incentives to owners who make their cars available to the grid, similar to utilities offering customers discounts for allowing their home air conditioning to run intermittently during times of high demand. Customers who opt-in to the program can charge their cars at a location of their choice and have the ability to ignore the utility’s request to stop charging.

The formal collaboration between the automakers, utilities and Electric Power Research Institute began in fall 2012. However, the concept and application of electric vehicle/grid integration has been studied extensively by numerous research groups for more than 10 years.

UIC Researchers Convert Waste Carbon to Fuel

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) scientists, under the lead of Amin Salehi-Khojin, UIC professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, have synthesized a catalyst that improves their system for converting waste carbon dioxide into syngas. The syngas is a percursor of gasoline and other energy-rich products and this recent achievement in the the research team’s process has brought the production of CO2 to energy closer to commercial viability. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications on July 30, 2014.

The research team developed a unique two-step catalytic process that uses molybdenum disulfide and an ionic liquid to “reduce,” or transfer electrons, to carbon dioxide in a chemical reaction. The new catalyst improves efficiency and lowers cost by replacing expensive metals like gold or silver in the reduction reaction.

UIC researcher Amin Salehi-KhojinMohammad Asadi, UIC graduate student and co-first author on the paper said the discovery is a big step toward industrialization. “With this catalyst, we can directly reduce carbon dioxide to syngas without the need for a secondary, expensive gasification process,” explained Asadi. In other chemical-reduction systems, he noted, the only reaction product is carbon monoxide. The new catalyst produces syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide plus hydrogen.

Salehi-Khojin, principal investigator on the study continued the explanation by noting the high density of loosely bound, energetic d-electrons in molybdenum disulfide facilitates charge transfer, driving the reduction of the carbon dioxide. “This is a very generous material,” said Salehi-Khojin. “We are able to produce a very stable reaction that can go on for hours.”

The proportion of carbon monoxide to hydrogen in the syngas produced in the reaction can also be easily manipulated using the new catalyst, said Salehi-Khojin.

“Our whole purpose is to move from laboratory experiments to real-world applications,” he said. “This is a real breakthrough that can take a waste gas — carbon dioxide — and use inexpensive catalysts to produce another source of energy at large-scale, while making a healthier environment.”