How to ‘rip out’ all traces of sulfur in gas and diesel

Sulfur in fuels creates air pollution when it’s burned. Oil refineries can remove a lot of it, but no all.

Simulations show a new method could reduce sulfur to a fraction of that amount. Another potential bonus: it could extend the life of your vehicle’s catalytic converter.

“The next step is figuring out how to streamline the process and make it work on an industrial scale,” says lead author Anton Toutov, a graduate student in the lab of Robert Grubbs, a chemistry professor at the California Institute of Technology.

The new method, described in in the journal Nature Energy, uses a potassium salt to induce the chemical reactions required to remove sulfur from fuel. Potassium is an abundant element on Earth and cheaper and more environmentally friendly to use than rare metal catalysts that are used for similar reactions.

“We were really surprised how well the potassium salt worked,” says Toutov. “The sulfur is contained in small organic molecules, and this process just rips it right out.”

Potassium surprise

The discovery that potassium salts can be used to promote key chemical reactions came unexpectedly a couple of years ago. Researchers in the Grubbs laboratory had been testing ways to break carbon-oxygen bonds, which is most efficient when done with a precious metal catalyst such as platinum.

Alexey Fedorov of ETH Zürich, who was a postdoctoral fellow in the Grubbs laboratory at the time, ran a control experiment without the metal catalyst and found that the reaction still worked. After several tests, the researchers confirmed that a potassium salt, called potassium tert-butoxide, was, in fact, driving the reaction.

Could clean metal powders fuel your car?

Next, Toutov optimized the process and further showed that the reaction produced compounds with carbon-silicon bonds, which normally require metal catalysts to form. Carbon-silicon bonds are found in many products, such as polymers, agricultural chemicals, and semiconductors.

“They left the metal out of the reaction, and it still worked,” says Grubbs. “This was a huge surprise.”

From 8 ppm to 2 ppm

As described in the paper, Toutov and his colleagues in the Grubbs lab have used the potassium salt method to remove sulfur from carbon compounds found in diesel fuel.

They partnered with BP to test their method on the company’s refined diesel samples, reducing the sulfur levels down from 8 parts per million (comparable to the highest quality of diesel you can get from a typical gas pump today) to an extremely low 2 parts per million. They also repeated the experiment with diesel spiked with high levels of sulfur and achieved similar results.

The new method could be used as an additional step in the oil refinement process to get rid of the last traces of sulfur in fuels. The next step for Toutov, who is co-founding a new company, Fuzionaire, is to commercialize this technology.

“We have a number of ideas in mind on how to do that,” he says, including recycling waste products from other industries for use in the process.

BP, the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech, Dow Chemical Company, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada provided support. Additional coauthors are from UCLA, Nanjing University, and ETH Zürich.

Source: Caltech

The post How to ‘rip out’ all traces of sulfur in gas and diesel appeared first on Futurity.

LG G6 vs. iPhone 7 Plus

A side-by-side comparison of the LG G6 and iPhone 7 Plus

The LG G6 was revealed yesterday at the Mobile World Congress. It seems to be a considerable upgrade over last year’s G5 flagship, abandoning the previous generation’s adventurous but unimpressive modular approach. How does the G6 compare to the iPhone 7 Plus?

..
Continue Reading LG G6 vs. iPhone 7 Plus

Category: Mobile Technology

Tags:

Related Articles:

New polymer could create win-win scenario in war against plastic waste

Getting rid of plastic waste remains a Sisyphean task despite our efforts to tackle it by employing PET-eating bacteria and turning it into footwear, liquid fuel, and even the foundations for an entire village. The material that ends up being recovered and reused is just a drop in a non-stop growing mountain of garbage. But what if there was a way to create a super-durable alloy out of two of the biggest sources of packaging waste while using less oil at the same time?

..
Continue Reading New polymer could create win-win scenario in war against plastic waste

Category: Materials

Tags:

Related Articles:

Gallery: F1 teams come to grips with a new formula for 2017

Check out the challengers for a new season of F1

Formula 1 represents the pinnacle of international motorsport, but that doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near perfect. Modern cars are quiet and, if we’re being honest, a bit boring to watch compared to the barely-controllable beasts from days gone by. That’s set to change this year, with new regulations prescribing bigger wings, wider tires and more power from hybrid-turbocharged V6 engines.

..
Continue Reading Gallery: F1 teams come to grips with a new formula for 2017

Category: Automotive

Tags:

Related Articles:

There's no escaping Boston Dynamics' wheeled jumping robot

Boston Dynamics latest innovation is Handle, a research robot with extraordinary mobility

Boston Dynamics has officially unveiled its latest robot after footage leaked earlier in February showing the new design. Known as “Handle” the new research robot incorporates elements from the company’s previous Altas robot, but achieves more efficient mobility by adding wheels and a significantly less complex joint system.

..
Continue Reading There’s no escaping Boston Dynamics’ wheeled jumping robot

Category: Robotics

Tags:

Related Articles:

Common catalyst sucks out sulfur for cleaner diesel

Electric vehicles, powered by renewable energy sources, are hitting the roads in greater numbers every year, but the transition away from gas guzzlers is going to take a while. In the meantime, scientists are working on ways to clean up existing fossil fuels, and a new refining process developed at Caltech uses a potassium catalyst to reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline and diesel to a fraction of their current levels.

..
Continue Reading Common catalyst sucks out sulfur for cleaner diesel

Category: Environment

Tags:

Related Articles:

Hydrogen volcanoes may increase habitability of exoplanets

Artist's concept of a possible surface of planet TRAPPIST-1f

Does TRAPPIST-1 have three potentially habitable planets or four? New research by scientists at Cornell University led by Ramses Ramirez, indicates that number four is a possibility if there are hydrogen volcanoes on it. According to the astronomers, worlds where hydrogen spews out from volcanic vents could enjoy a greenhouse effect that would warm their atmosphere enough to sustain life.

..
Continue Reading Hydrogen volcanoes may increase habitability of exoplanets

Category: Space

Tags:

Related Articles:

transportation • Re: Could this be any worse?

I’m sorry, that is only forgivable for a sophomore-year, maybe junior-year project. For those folks I would blame the professor who shouldn’t be assigning such a project.

This epitomizes a solution looking for a problem. On top of that, absolutely no research was done at all. No benchmarking and certainly no customer research. It’s like they rode a bike when they were 8 and haven’t ridden since.

Even if this were a pure aesthetics project, it fails in so many ways it hurts. Proportions all wrong. Colliding forms are all wrong. Finish is all wrong.

Don’t get me wrong. I made plenty of abominations while in school. But I would take what hopefully is the constructive criticism, fix the problems, then add it to the portfolio. I would not show the before as a standalone. And only sometimes would I show a before with an after. That is something I would nail to the professor.