Chemical engineers from University of Massachusetts have found a new way to produce high-yield bio-oils that is capable of reducing industry's dependancy on fossil fuels.
Chemical manufacturers will now be able to use relatively cheaper, widely available pyrolysis oils made from waste wood, agricultural waste and non-food energy crops to produce the same high-value materials for making everything from solvents and detergents to plastics and fibres.
George Huber, associate professor of chemical engineering at UMass Amherst, said, "We think this technology will provide a big boost to the economy because pyrolysis oils are commercially available now. The major difference between our approach and the current method is the feedstock; our process uses a renewable feedstock, that is, plant biomass."
In the past, these compounds were made in a low-yield process, he said.
"But here we show how to achieve three times higher yields of chemicals from pyrolysis oil than ever achieved before. We've essentially provided a roadmap for converting low-value pyrolysis oils into products with a higher value than transportation fuels."
Using the new techniques, chemical producers can manage the carbon content from biomass they need, as well as hydrogen amounts.
The technology has been licensed to Anellotech Corp., co-founded by Huber and David Sudolsky of New York City.
Sudolsky, Anellotech's CEO, said, "The problem has been that pyrolysis oils must be upgraded to be useable. But with the new UMass Amherst process, Anellotech can now convert these pyrolysis oils into valuable chemicals at higher efficiency and with very attractive economics."