Unique production process could slash diesel CO2 emissions
Ajoin team of researchers from Belgium's KU Leuven and from UtrechtUniversity in the Netherlands has examined the fuel productionprocess, developing a new method that allows for cleaner diesel.According to the team, the technique could easily be scaled up toindustrial levels for use within the next decade.
Catalystsare central to fuel production, facilitating the chemical reactionsthat transition the raw materials into a usable product. During the production process, thefuel molecules interact with the catalyst materials, bouncing betweenthe metal and acid, altering their state as they go.
Theresearchers' breakthrough relates to the placement of the catalystmaterials, which in this case consisted of platinum and a solid state acid. It's currently standard practice to place the twocatalysts as close together as possible, which is thought to allowthe raw materials to bounce more easily between them, giving theprocess a helping hand.
Thenew study turns this idea on its head, with the team finding that ifthe components are placed at least a few nanometers apart, then thereaction will produce a much more environmentally-friendly fuel. Surprised by the findings, theresearchers were keen to make sure the results weren't compromised inany way, triple checking the outcome.
"Werepeated the experiments three times, only to arrive at the sameconclusion: the current theory is wrong," says Ku Leuven'sProfessor Johan Martens. "There has to be a minimum distancebetween the functions within a catalyst. This goes against what theindustry has been doing for the past 50 years."
Accordingto the team, the discovery could have big implications. If cars wereto run on the cleaner diesel, they would emit significantly fewerharmful particles and produce less CO2. Furthermore, there's noreason that the production method couldn't be scaled up quickly,meaning we could be making use of the environmentally-friendly dieselas soon as five to 10 years time.
Thefindings of the study were published in the journal Nature.
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Not true. I live in a small semi-rural town in the French alps, where particulate and NOx emissions frequently exceed permitted maximum safe limit - over 90 days this year. It's as bad as the peripherique in Paris, and has resulted in childhood asthma rates 300% the national average. The cause here is diesel trucks climbing the steep gradient to the Mont Blanc tunnel, smoke from domestic wood fires and local industry, combined with temperature inversions common in mountainous areas.
Particulates are bad news wherever you are, so anything that reduces them is good.