Researchers have designed a catalyst that converts biomass into fuel sources with remarkably high
efficiency, offering new possibilities for manufacturing advanced renewable materials. Neutron
scattering experiments played a key role in determining the chemical and behavioural dynamics of
the new zeolite catalyst NbAlS-1 to provide information for maximising its performance.
The optimized catalyst converts biomass-derived raw
materials into light olefins such as ethene, propene, and
butene, which can then be used to make plastics and liquid
fuels. Their study, published in Nature Materials, finds that the
new catalyst has a yield of 99%, whilst requiring significantly
less energy than its predecessors.
Typically, the chemical conversion of the organic matter to
smaller molecules requires a tremendous amount of energy.
Investigating possibilities for a greener alternative, the team
doped the catalyst by replacing the zeolite’s silicon atoms with
niobium and aluminium. The substitution created a chemically
unbalanced state that promotes bond activation and radically
reduces the need for high temperature treatments.
Related publication: “Quantitative production of butenes from biomass-derived γ-valerolactone catalysed by
hetero-atomic MFI zeolite.” Nature Materials, 19, 86-93 (2020)