Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass
Background and Objectives
Increasing energy demands and, concomitantly, increased carbon dioxide emission, alongside a limited availability of fossil energy resources, represent one of the greatest societal challenges today. Thus, research in the area of energy utilization from renewable resources is becoming ever more important, with the goal of developing alternatives to the usage of fossil energy resources. ONe such alternative is offered by the efficient use of biomass, without, however, competing with food production.
The Cluster of Excellence "Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass" (TMFB) takes an interdisciplinary approach to research on new synthetic fuels obtained from biomass.
Optimized Biobased Fuels Through the Interdisciplinary Collaboration of Several Disciplines
Since the beginning of the first funding period in 2007 the Cluster has been working on the development of an overarching process for the production of optimized biofuels.
The involved researchers work in very close collaboration: on the one hand, novel synthetic conversion paths are investigated. These are to facilitate the energy- and resource-optimized conversion of biomass into fuel components via various of (bio)catalytic steps. On the other hand, the combustion processes for these novel fuels are systematically examined, in order to define optimized fuel characteristics and thus to be able to make the combustion process more clean and efficient.
The constant exchange between these two key research areas in the so-called “fuel design process” makes it possible to derive novel, optimized fuels that are cost-effective in production and that facilitate an efficiency-optimized combustion.
Most importantly, for the production of the fuels, the entire plant material, called lignocellulose, is used – thus, these fuels will not compete with the food chain.
Partners in the Fuel Design Center
The Excellence Cluster involves more than 20 RWTH departments working in the fields of chemistry, bio-technology, process engineering, and mechanical engineering. It is supported by partner institutions, such as the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (Aachen) and the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung (Mülheim).
The contributing researchers come together in the “Fuel Design Center,” which is located at RWTH Aachen University, to follow this interdisciplinary approach in order to develop an optimized process for the production of biofuels.
Continued Funding Until 2017
In the first five-year funding period, the Cluster was able to achieve promising successes: New molecule structures developed in the “fuel design process” via adapted catalytic paths from biomass make it possible to achieve an almost soot-free combustion. Furthermore, fuels have been developed that facilitate a controlled self-ignition with minimized fuel emission in the gasoline engine and that achieve an efficiency improvement of up to 10 percent.
In the second funding phase for the TMBF Cluster of Excellence, approved in June by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Council of Science and Humanities (WR), the researchers will continue their work and complement it by new approaches. They will introduce model-based methods, for example, to be able to predict the characteristics and production paths of novel fuel components.
In parallel, experiments will be developed to determine the combustion characteristics of tailor-made fuels (“rapid fuel screening”). In this way, the precision of the simulation models can be improved and the potential of new candidates for fuels can be assessed as quickly as possible. Furthermore, novel combustion processes and engines that are optimized for the use of the new fuels will be developed – in this way, the potential of the fuels can be fully exploited.
Thus, after the successful first funding phase, the Excellence Cluster seeks to continue to provide contributions to sustainable future mobility within the next five years.