Policy / Systems / Technology

March 4, 2006


Japanese Research Team Develops Low-cost, Effective Solid Catalyst

Keywords: Environmental Technology University / Research institute 

A research group led by Dr. Michikazu Hara at the Chemical Resources Laboratory of the Tokyo Institute of Technology has developed a new method for producing a low-cost solid catalyst. This solid catalyst is as effective as liquid catalysts such as sulfuric acid, according to an announcement made by the institute on December 19, 2005.

Sulfuric acid is highly active and widely used as a catalyst in the chemical industry. Since it is a liquid, however, sulfuric acid easily mixes with the products of the reaction, meaning that removing it incurs additional costs; this characteristic also prevents it from being recycled. To avoid these disadvantages, effective solid catalysts have long been sought.

This research group has succeeded in creating the new solid catalyst using inexpensive organic materials such as sugars, starch and cellulose. In the new method, these organic materials are heated and carbonized to form microscopic carbon sheets, and the sheets are sulphonated to generate a solid catalyst that contains a high density of sulfonic acid groups attached closely to each other.

The sugar-based catalyst is very stable, and its activity level is equal to or higher than that of sulfuric acid. In the process of producing biodiesel fuel, the research group found that the new catalyst was eight times as efficient as conventional solid acid catalysts. Expectations are that the sugar-based catalyst will be used in a wide variety of applications, including the production of petrochemicals and fuel cell materials. The researchers reported their findings in the British science journal Nature (vol. 438, No. 178) under the title "Green chemistry: Biodiesel made with sugar catalyst."


Posted: 2006/03/04 10:44:28 AM
Japanese version