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Cheaper and greener biofuels processing catalyst
Published in the journal Fuel, their findings point to a cheaper, more environmentally friendly and renewable

catalyst for processing that uses common bacteria and the metal palladium, which can be recovered from waste

sources such as discarded electronics, catalytic converters, street sweeper dust and processed sewage.
The bio-oil produced in the lab from algae contains impurities like nitrogen and oxygen, but treating it with

palladium as a catalyst during processing helps remove those impurities to meet clean-air requirements,

Sharma said.
For the palladium to do its job, the bio-oil needs to flow past it during processing. Previous studies have shown

that allowing the oil flow through porous carbon particles infused with palladium is an effective method, but those

carbon particles are not cheap, Sharma said.
“Instead of using commercially produced carbon particles, we can use bacteria cell masses as a sort of biologic

scaffolding for the palladium to hold on to,” Sharma said. “The oil can flow through the palladium-decorated

bacteria masses as it does through the carbon particles.”
To test the effectiveness of the new method, Sharma and his co-authors performed a variety of chemical and

physical analyses to determine if their new processing treatment produced a liquid fuel that is comparable in

quality to one made using the commercially produced catalyst. 
“We found our product to be as good or even slightly better,” Sharma said. “We were able to remove the oxygen

and nitrogen impurities at a comparable rate, and yielded the same volume of product using our cheaper, greener

catalyst as is observed using the more expensive commercial catalyst.”
The more costly commercial catalyst has the added benefit that it can be used over and over without extensive

processing, whereas the Sharma group’s palladium-on-bacteria catalyst will need to undergo processing to be reused.
“It is a minor caveat,” Sharma said. “The fact that we have shown the potential of making refinery-ready crude

oil from algae bio-oil using a catalyst that can be prepared from low-grade recycled metals and green and

economical bacterial biomass proves that this is a very promising advancement. In addition, this bio-catalyst

would work equally well in petrochemical processing.”
The work was conducted in collaboration with professors Joe Wood and Lynne Macaskie from the University of

Birmingham, funded through the Birmingham-Illinois Partnership for Discovery, Engagement and Education program.

The Natural Environment Research Council, U.K. also supported this research.

                                                                                                                                                                                                 Source:Biomass Magazine