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July 21, 2014

Chemists develop new process for producing cleaner, cheaper diesel fuel

The Center for Enabling New Technologies Through Catalysis lives up to its name; new catalysts yield much more from carbon sources

Diesel--we know it best as the fuel that does the heavy lifting.

Typically, diesel fuel is made from crude oil, but scientists can make high-grade diesel from coal, natural gas, plants or even agricultural waste, using a process called Fischer-Tropsch, or “FT.” Just about any carbon source is an option. FT Diesel is the ideal liquid transportation fuel for automobiles, trucks and jets. It's much cleaner burning than conventional diesel, and much more energy efficient than gasoline. But, FT Diesel is expensive to make and generates lots of waste.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its Center for Enabling New Technologies Through Catalysis (CENTC), chemists around the United States are working together to improve the cost and energy efficiency of alternative fuels. CENTC scientists have invented and patented, and are bringing toward commercialization, catalysts that will convert light hydrocarbons into FT Diesel, improving the process, whether it's diesel made from traditional sources, such as oil, or alternative sources, such as biomass.

The research in this episode was supported by NSF awards #0650456, Center for Enabling New Technologies Through Catalysis, and #1205189, Center for Enabling New Technologies Through Catalysis (CENTC) Phase II Renewal.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Ann Kellan, Science Nation Producer

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.