Researchers at Virginia Tech are working toward producing stable bio-oils that have the potential to be converted to biogasoline. The research team led by Foster Agblevor, associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is working toward finding a solution to the unstable and acidic bio-oil produced by converting woody feedstock like pine wood into liquid fuels. Not only is this bio-oil acidic in nature, but also cannot be converted to transportation fuel using traditional processing technologies and becomes thicker during storage, making it unusable.
The team has been working on a solution for last three year and succeeded in turning biomass into transportation fuels that can directly replace fossil fuels. Their research is based on a theory, which says that by looking at the three unstable components of biomass – cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin – and controlling them separately can help in making the overall product more stable. The study has resulted in the development of catalysts that are capable of producing stable bio-oils that can be stored for at least one year without any significant increase in its viscosity.
The team believes that this is the first stable biosyncrude ever produced. It is anticipated that this study will lead to lowering carbon emissions while using domestic biomass resources to produce sustainable energy for vehicles. After this success, the team plans to work toward developing a pilot test that will directly transform biomass materials into transportation fuels.