Institute of Catalysis Research and Technology (IKFT)

Catalysis and Processes for Sustainable Fuels

Chemical processes that lead via intermediates such as synthesis gas, methanol or DME to fuel and fuel components require powerful, robust and cost-effective catalysts. Power-to-Fuels concepts aim to use such processes to realize the chemical storage of renewable energies. However, the dynamics of electricity generation using wind power (2017: 18.8 % of total electricity generation in Germany) and photovoltaics (2017: 7 %) require such conversions to take place under very different and in some cases not ideal operating conditions, unlike conventional stationary processes in the chemical industry (www.sci.kit.edu/70.php). In joint projects, the IKFT working groups "Catalysis and Processes for CO2 Fixation" and "Catalysis and Processes for Sustainable Fuels" use a process and plant technology that is designed in different scales and for different throughput ranges and develop catalyst materials for the respective process steps. The process steps are optimized by experimentally determined reaction kinetics and the development of kinetic models.

Activities of the group Catalysis and processes for sustainable fuels comprise the development of fuels from renewable resources, the development of tailor-made analytical tools and new heterogeneous catalyst systems for fuel production. Research is carried out in close cooperation with the team Catalysis and processes for CO2 fixation.

The work focuses on the synthesis of oxygen-containing fuels, so-called oxygenate fuels, and a prominent example is the synthesis of oxymethylene ethers (OME). These are alternative diesel fuels for a clean combustion and reduction of harmful emissions like soot and NOx. OMEs can be produced from renewables via methanol or dimethyl ether (DME) and processes with high energy efficiency and atom economy are currently developed. Another central topic is the generation of specialty fuels with well-defined composition and high purity, e.g. gasoline production from ethanol. In all cases, the preferred raw materials are wastes or residual materials.

In addition to oxygenate fuels which are predominantly employed in the field of diesel fuels, the production of alternative gasoline from renewable resources is also investigated. Major objective is the reduction or complete elimination of aromatic fuel components which cause the formation of harmful particulate emissions. Despite remarkable changes of the fuel compositions the fuel performance is supposed to remain on a high level and current standards should be met. The activities are carried out in cooperation with the team Catalysis and processes for CO2 fixation.