Haldor Topsoe in project to make a new biofuel for diesel engines  

2009.06.17
The Danish Energy Agency is funding a project to find a way of converting bioethanol into a sustainable replacement of fossil fuels for diesel vehicles
Danish catalyst technology company Haldor Topsoe and the Danish Technological Institute have gained EUR 1m (USD 1.38m) from the Danish Energy Agency for a project which aims to find a way of catalytically converting bioethanol into an economic and sustainable replacement of fossil fuels for diesel vehicles, reports professional journal Ingeniøren (The Engineer).
 
The project is being started at a time when there is already commercial production of second generation biodiesel made from animal remains supplied by Danish abattoirs, that is mixed with conventional diesel. But Haldor Topsoe project director Claus Hviid Christensen believes that there is simply not enough animal waste to meet the future need for a sustainable fuel for diesel engines. Hence the project to develop a new diesel fuel from the plentiful future supplies of bioethanol.
 
The idea for how to do this is actually quite simple, at least in principle. Diesel engines cannot run directly on bioethanol because it won't combust purely under compression (in other words its cetane number is too low). But if ethanol is subjected to a dehydration reaction, a volatile compound called diethyl ether is formed, which has a high enough cetane number to work in a diesel engine. The goal of the project is therefore to find out how bioethanol can be efficiently converted into diethyl ether using a catalytic process.

Haldor Topsoe already has experience in diesel catalysis as well as industrial ether production, so it will not be working in uncharted territory. The company also sees the technology as an important step towards more sustainable transport, since it says that the combustion of bioethanol in a diesel engine increases fuel efficiency by 30-40% compared to an engine running on gasoline.
 
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