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Light Energy and Biomass Can Be Converted to Fuel and Hydrogen

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A team at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, led by professor Feng Wang, has developed a process for using light energy to drive the use of downstream biomass products to produce hydrogen and diesel fuel precursors simultaneously.

The reactions were carried out at room temperature and pressure, and they produced hydrogen and diesel fuel precursors. Removal of the oxygen contents from the diesel fuel precursors produced sustainable diesel fuels with components close to current petroleum diesel. According to the scientists, hydrogen could be used to remove the oxygen from the diesel fuel precursors or be used alone.

This process demonstrates the potential to directly transform light energy and biomass to hydrogen energy and diesel fuels, and it could provide a way to produce clean energy using solar energy and sustainable carbon sources present on Earth’s surface.

The team believes that photocatalytic hydrogen production from biomass is a promising alternative to water splitting, thanks to its ability to simultaneously produce solar fuels and value-added chemicals. Biomass such as agricultural straw and forest waste, one of the largest sources of sustainable carbon resources, could replace petrochemical resources to provide derivative products. Splitting of biomass or its derivatives could yield higher light transformation efficiencies and higher rates of hydrogen production than using photocatalytic water splitting to provide hydrogen. 

The research was published in Nature Energy (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-019-0403-5).  

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Research & TechnologyeducationAsia-PacificDalian Institutephotocatalysissolarenvironmentenergylight energylight-driven processesbiodieselindustriallight sourcesmaterials

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