AMHERST, Mass. — Chemical engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, using a catalytic fast pyrolysis process that transforms renewable non-food biomass into petrochemicals, have developed a new catalyst that boosts the yield for five key "building blocks of the chemical industry" by 40 percent compared to previous methods, according to a press release.
This sustainable production process, which holds the promise of being competitive and compatible with the current petroleum refinery infrastructure, has been tested and proven in a laboratory reactor, using wood as the feedstock, the research team said.
"We think that today we can be economically competitive with crude oil production," said research team leader George Huber, an associate professor of chemical engineering at UMass Amherst and one of the country’s leading experts on catalytic pyrolysis.
Huber says his research team can take wood, grasses or other renewable biomass and create five of the six petrochemicals that serve as the building blocks for the chemical industry.