A key to cheaper renewable fuels: keeping iron from rusting

Wednesday, August 19, 2020
(Funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy)

Researchers at Washington State University have made a first step in economically converting plant materials to fuels. One big hurdle is that oxygen has to be removed from the plant materials before they can be used. Iron-based catalysts show promise for removing oxygen, but the iron also oxidizes, or rusts, during the reaction, and then the reaction stops. The researchers discovered that one way around this issue is to get the iron to remove the oxygen from the plant materials without taking up so much oxygen that the reaction stops. This was achieved with an iron-based catalyst surrounded by a thin layer of graphene.