The journal Nature features a new study titled “Nanoscale Intimacy in Bifunctional Catalysts for Selective Conversion of Hydrocarbons,” published by scientists from KU Leuven and Utrecht University, detailing the fact that a new type of diesel which makes cars emit less CO2 could become available in gas stations across the world within the next 5-10 years.
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The method for producing the fuel requires the use of catalysts – which create chemical actions that causes raw material to be converted into fuel. But for diesel, tiny granules of the catalyst are added so that the raw material will adequately convert molecules within the raw material into fuel that can be used by cars and machineries.
The catalyst serves two purposes which are typified by two different materials: metal (platinum) and solid-state acid. When diesel is being produced, the molecules move up and down between the metal and acid – and they change forms every time they hit any of the metal or acid, until they finally transform into molecules usable for diesel fuel.
Professor Johan Martens of KU Leuven together with Professor Krijn de Jong of Utrecht University disclosed that molecules must not be boosted to move up and down much faster by bringing the metal and acid within the catalyst much closer; and that it is better that molecules inside a catalyst be nanometers apart because this procedure generates cleaner fuel.
"Our results are the exact opposite of what we had expected. At first, we thought that the samples had been switched or that something was wrong with our analysis," said Professor Martens.
"We repeated the experiments three times, only to arrive at the same conclusion: the current theory is wrong. There has to be a minimum distance between the functions within a catalyst. This goes against what the industry has been doing for the past 50 years," he added.
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This new technique of producing diesel creates a much cleaner diesel that won’t be broken down to release CO2 and much particulates inside vehicles that use it. This production method is currently being fine-tuned so that it could be enlarged industrially to enable the mass production of cleaner diesel to become available for vehicles within 5-10 years.