Biofuels have attracted much attention because of the declining amount of fossil fuels across the world and the rise of global warming. Some algae are known to produce more oil than terrestrial plants, and so they can be a promising source of oil. Japanese researchers have developed a new method of converting squalene, which is produced by microalgae, to jet fuel and gasoline. This study is part of a research project titled 'Next-generation energies for Tohoku recovery. Task 2: R&D on using algae biofuels'.
Researchers treated squalane with this catalyst and hydrogen at 60 atm and 240 degrees Celsius to produce smaller hydrocarbons. These branched hydrocarbons are good components for gasoline and jet fuels because of their high octane number, low freezing point and good stability. This catalytic system makes good use of the squalene's branched structure, while conventional methods are more suitable to straight-chain molecules in petroleum. The produced hydrocarbons compose of only branched alkanes with simple distribution and do not contain toxic aromatics.
The results will be published in ChemSusChem.