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Adding gallium to biomass pyrolysis catalyst increases BTX yield

By Chemical Engineering |

A new catalyst design, in which gallium atoms are integrated into the zeolite catalyst structure, can increase yields of aromatic compounds from biomass by 40% in a catalytic fast-pyrolysis process. The higher yields of benzene, toluene and xylenes (BTX), as well as ethylene and propylene, achieved with the gallium-containing zeolite, make the biomass process economically competitive with crude-oil-based production of those building-block chemicals. George Huber, chemical engineering professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (www.umass.edu) and leader of the research group that developed the new catalyst, says the gallium modifies the properties of the zeolite’s surface-active sites in a way that favors key reactions in the biomass pyrolysis — de-carbonylation and oligimerization of the biomass. The fast- pyrolysis process involves feeding wood- or agricultural-waste into a fluidized-bed reactor, where the biomass decomposes with heat. The resulting vapor encounters the new gallium-zeolite catalyst, and is selectively converted into aromatics and olefins. The team’s fast pyrolysis technology has been licensed to Anellotech Inc. (New York, N.Y.; www.anellotech.com), a company Huber co-founded ( Chem.…
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