Biodiesel Process Uses Catalytically Active Particles

Sachtleben, a unit of Rockwood Holdings Inc. and a producer of specialty titanium dioxide and functional additives, has developed catalytically active particles that may revolutionize the production of biofuels using sustainable and environmentally friendly means.

Sacthleben is working with Augsburg College and biodiesel producer Ever Cat Fuels LLC, which is currently designing the first commercial-scale pilot plant incorporating this fluidized-bed catalyst system at Isanti, Minnesota, near Minneapolis.

The new process, developed by Professor Arlin Gyberg from Augsburg College in Minneapolis and Clayton McNeff, Ph.D., cofounder of Ever Cat Fuels LLC., a biodiesel company, uses highly catalytically active particles supplied by Sachtleben. The process also will permit the conversion of inferior fats, paper-industry waste, and algae oil to high-quality diesel fuel.

Sachtleben Chief Executive Officer Wolf-Dieter Griebler described the new catalytic particles for biodiesel production: "In view of the growing scarcity of foodstuffs in many regions of the world, this new process for production of biodiesel from fat-containing waste products, which is receiving our active support, has multiple benefits over existing processes. In addition, the use of regenerable feedstocks for production of biodiesel in the new process will decrease emissions of CO2, since only the same amount of CO2 will be liberated as was taken in during growth of the input materials."

Sachtleben's catalytically active particles play a major role in the new approach for the significantly simpler production of biodiesel. The particles are, on the one hand, sufficiently stable to withstand the extreme reaction conditions, and are, on the other hand, the factor that makes rapid and complete transesterification of the feedstocks possible at all. Up until now, the reaction time in the process took several hours, whereas the new process takes just a few seconds.

In addition, the catalyst particles also are capable of converting free fatty acids present, for example, in spent or rancid natural fats and oils, to biodiesel.

Recent research results obtained by Gyberg, McNeff and Yan show that even certain types of algae, characterized by a high free fatty-acid content, can be converted to biodiesel.

Sachtleben is based in Duisburg, Germany. Rockwood Holdings, Inc. is a global specialty chemicals and advanced materials company.

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