Biofuels: Catalytic Upgrading of Alcohols

Developing technologies for sustainable and secure energy provision is arguably the most important objective for the entire scientific and engineering community. Sustainable liquid fuels derived from crops – biofuels – are increasingly important.  We have an interest in developing catalysts for the upgrading of simple biomass-derived building blocks, especially ethanol, into more advanced and useful fuels. A particular focus is the conversion of ethanol into butanol – a so-called advanced biofuel which has characteristics very close to existing gasoline.  We have discovered ruthenium-based catalysts, supported by various ligands such as chelating diphosphines, which show unprecedented selectivity (over 95%) for this transformation at good conversion.  We continue to study the mechanism of this remarkable reaction, as well as developing even more selective and versatile catalysts.

Update:  see Duncan talk about this project at an ACS press conference.