Lignin as a profitable basis for sustainable aviation fuel is one step closer

About the episode

While small vehicles are increasingly becoming electric, this is much more difficult to achieve for mass transportation – such as planes and ships. That’s why we’re working hard to make the fuels they still need at least a little more sustainable.

For example, an English company – still in the testing phase, but still – is already making kerosene from sewage sludge. Researchers in Eindhoven are looking with great interest at plant lignin as an alternative to oil. You’ll find this in biomass as well as sugar.

Now sugars can be converted into ethanol, and you can make chemicals and fuels from lignin. The problem is that the latter is not effective enough to make a profit.

This is related to the fact that the strong carbon bonds in lignin are difficult to separate. Researchers from TU Eindhoven have now found a solution.

By first activating the carbon compounds in the metal nanoparticles, they become weak. This makes it much easier in the next step of the process.

Ultimately, this combination allows for much higher yields, which the researchers say makes lignin-based renewable fuels commercially viable.

Read more about the research here: Breaking carbon-carbon bonds in lignin to make sustainable aviation fuel

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Megan Vasquez

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