U Of M Researchers Find Materials To Improve Ethanol Production

College of Science and Engineering

Jan 26, 2015

Using one of the largest supercomputers in the world, researchers led by a team from the University of Minnesota have identified material that could improve ethanol production.

In a statement from the university's College of Science and Engineering, it said it's researchers have found an all-silica zeolite that could change the ethanol / water separation process from a multi-step distillation process to a single-step adsorptive process. The team included researchers from Rice University.

Zeolites are materials used by biofuel and petrochemical refiners that act as sieves to sort, filter and trap chemical compunds, as well as catalyze chemical reactions necessary to produce and upgrade chemical feedstock from renewable and petroleum-based sources.

The all-silica zeolite used by researchers at the University of Minnesota was tested and synthesized in chemical engineering and materials science professor, Michael Tsapatis' lab.

Synthesizing zeolites in a lab can be a long and complicated process that can take months. However, researchers of the University of Minnesota and Rice University developed a complex computational screening process using a supercomputer from the Argonne National Laboratory that looked at thousands of zeolites in the virtual world and identified their performance for specific applications.

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