For the first time, scientists have overcome the challenge of breaking down raw biomass without the need for chemical pre-treatment, and have produced record amounts of liquid hydrocarbon fuel as a result. This work was successfully carried out thanks to the involvement of STFC’s ISIS Neutron and Muon source.
A team of scientists from The University of Manchester led by Dr Sihai Yang and from East China University of Science and Technology used the ISIS Neutron and Muon source – often described as a ‘super-microscope’ – to study the biomass and catalyst at the molecular level. Using an ISIS instrument called TOSCA, Dr Yang and ISIS scientist Dr Stewart Parker used neutrons to see how a model of lignocellulose interacted with the surface of the catalyst to produce useful fuel.
“By using neutrons we can see more of the features that help us understand what is happening in the conversion of lignocellulose to useful chemicals,” said Dr Stewart Parker from the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source.
This new research finding brings us one step closer to lessening our dependence on fossil fuels, and is an important development in our shift towards renewable energy.