Learning how to make liquid fuels from algae oil under water
This project aims to develop a better understanding of the chemistry of hydrothermal catalytic decarboxylation of fatty acids over early transition metal carbide based catalysts. The research objectives are to synthesize and characterize several different catalysts, test their activity for several different fatty acids, and then determine the reaction products, pathways, and kinetics for decarboxylation over the most promising catalysts. We also desire to test these catalysts for hydrothermal upgrading of a crude algal bio-oil and determine the life-cycle environmental impacts of this potential process technology. In addition, the sustainability assessment will evaluate feedstock sources and resource constraints for alternative production pathways. The research will add significantly to our knowledge regarding hydrothermal heterogeneous catalysis, a field becoming increasingly important with increased attention on biofuels and green chemistry/engineering. It could also lead to new approaches for converting plant oils to fungible, renewable liquid transportation fuels.