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This nanoengineered catalyst converts mixed, impure waste to biodiesel

By Scott Jenkins |

In an example of a biologically inspired and nano-engineered catalyst, researchers at RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia; www.rmit.edu.au) have developed ceramic catalyst particles with a porous network organized hierarchically, where one chemical reaction takes place within larger pores, while a second transformation occurs in the smaller pores. The porous ceramic framework, which the researchers say is inexpensive to manufacture, allows a precise way of performing multiple reactions in a set sequence. Also, the compartmentalization of the active-site environments and substrate channeling protects the active sites from impurities, allowing the catalyst to be used to convert a highly impure feedstock, such as used cooking oils, into a valuable product, such as biodiesel fuels. To achieve the transformation from mixed feedstock to diesel fuel, the macropores of the catalyst material are selectively functionalized with a sulfated zirconia solid-acid coating, while the smaller mesopores are selectively functionalized with MgO solid-base nanoparticles. Co-lead investigator Karen Wilson, of RMIT, said the new catalyst design mimicked the way that enzymes in human cells coordinated complex chemical reactions. Previously developed catalysts…
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