Researchers use waste tires as new biodiesel catalyst ingredient

By Ron Kotrba | August 10, 2017

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have demonstrated that carbon from waste tires can be functionalized with sulfonic acid to catalyze esterification of oleic acid or a mixture of fatty acids into biodiesel.

“Waste tires were converted to hard carbon, then functionalized with catalytically active -SO3H groups on the surface through an environmentally benign process that involved the sequential treatment with L-cysteine, dithiothreitol and H2O2,” states the abstract of a publication, titled “Novel Acid Catalysts from Waste-Tire-Derived Carbon: Application in Waste-to-Biofuel Conversion,” published Aug. 1 in Chemistry Select. “When benchmarked against the same waste-tire-derived carbon material treated with concentrated sulfuric acid at 150 degrees Celsius, similar catalytic activity was observed. Both catalysts could also effectively convert oleic acid or a mixture of fatty acids and soybean oil to usable biofuels at 65 C and 1 atm without leaching of the catalytic sites.”

The study was conducted with collaborators Wake Forest University and Georgia Institute of Technology. ORNL co-author Parans Paranthaman said the patent-pending approach provides an environmentally benign pathway for inexpensive products from waste tires, and is a step toward large-scale biofuel production.

Previous ORNL studies have shown carbon powders can be used in developing lithium-ion, sodium-ion and potassium-ion batteries and supercapacitors. 


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