Photo: Jonas Hedlund, Professor LTU
Professor Jonas Hedlumd, Luleå University of Technology

New technologies can provide cheap biofuel

Researchers at Luleå University of Technology have managed to find a cost effective way to purify synthesis gas from carbon dioxide by the so-called zeolitmembran. With extremely small holes in the membranes, the gas can be purified from CO2 and develop into affordable biofuels such as methanol and BioDME (dimethyl ether).
- By our membrane technology is cheaper than the technology we use today so you can lower the price of methanol so that we can afford to buy it as a vehicle, says Professor Jonas Hedlund at Luleå University.

With funding from the Foundation for Strategic Research (SFF) and in close cooperation with the strategic research project Bio4Energy, Jonas Hedlund's research team have made a giant step to separate CO2 using zeolitmembran. He is one of 13 scientists in the country with funding from the SFF (more than 21 million) for research on materials of strategic importance for Sweden. The big picture is that through "Green Technology" develop biofuels in the pulp and paper industry.

Zeolitmembran compared with a Swedish crown

Zeolitmembran is a kind of super filter with extremely small holes (half a nanometer) that can be adapted to what to get through. Today, there are other technologies for separating carbon dioxide from synthesis gas, but it is expensive. The objective of the SSF project is to develop membranes that do this in a more cost-effective manner, which the researchers are on track to succeed.

- We have come a long way and have discovered that when we have high pressure on synthesis gas, as in an industrial process, our zeolitemembranes function very well, says Jonas Hedlund.

In a plant that was built up on the ETC Energy Technology Centre in Piteå, researchers have recently been able to conduct some initial tests, says Jonas Hedlund.

- When we put in one of our regular membrane, we were able to separate the carbon dioxide quite effective from synthesis gas, he said.

Mathematical modeling and an earlier study that found a way to make the membranes more efficiently, suggesting that it is possible to get even better results if you do tests in the facility under higher pressure

- We have not yet had time to test at high pressures, but these studies leads us to believe that with the improvement method we will get great results, only a few months away, says Jonas Hedlund, who estimated that there may be some small pilot plants with zeolitmembran next year.

Another track in the current SSF project is to use zeolitmembran to pure dilute butanol and ethanol from water that has been developed by fermentation (fermentation) of biomass. Even in this respect, conventional techniques are expensive and energy consuming.

Published: 27 March 2011

Luleå University of Technology