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Water’s Unique Role in Producing Renewable Fuels

Water plays crucial roles in our day to day life. It is a known fact that water is important, as it is the most environmentally-friendly solvent, substituting various organic solvents. Engineers from the University of Oklahoma and Tulsa have jointly approached to unearth water’s functionality in producing renewable fuels. They have discovered a unique way for water-assisted upgrading renewable furfural, thus doubling or tripling the conversion rate.

Professor Daniel Resasco from the Gallogly College states that water and energy both take equal charge in producing renewable fuels. Moreover, he explains water and energy both share a symbiotic relationship when it comes to production of fuels. Energy helps in purifying and extracting water, whereas water acts as a primary factor in producing energy. However, water’s novelty lies in accelerating the rate of hydrogenation.

Hydrogenation of Molecules Help in Faster Reaction Process

During the energy production in conventional refining, water’s presence in the reactors is highly undesirable. This is because of the water’s property in absorbing chemicals or raw materials in a catalytic reaction. Such activity alters the catalytic reaction’s targeted positions, which results in inhibiting the rate of conversion. However, a group of chemical engineering students have emphasized on discovering water’s unique role in the catalytic conversion of furfural. They have found water’s novel role in enhancing the rate of the process without inhibiting the reaction.

Furfural – a biomass-derived compound, which is a great source for producing chemicals and fuels. The strategy of using water successfully in catalytic reactions is to hydrogenate the molecules. Furthermore, hydrogenation of furfural find various applications in chemical industry as well. The group has explained that containing oxygenated group in the molecule help in occurring hydrogenation. Such hydrogenation occurs more from the liquid phase, rather than the catalytic surface. Water in the reaction shuttles the hydrogen through the water molecule, which helps in accelerating the rate of the process. The discovery of such unique mechanism of water hopes for producing renewable fuels to a great extent in the future.

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