Manufacturers of vehicles and fuels are currently studying how the amount of soot produced by diesel combustion can be reduced. Compliance with stricter exhaust gas standards is a problem in particular for commercial vehicles. Conventional methods are mostly based on expensive and technically complex soot filters and catalytic converters. They often cause an increased emission of nitrogen oxides that are hazardous to health. An alternative are fuel additives that reduce soot formation during combustion already. Suitable additives are organic compounds of the oxymethylene dialkylether class. Oxymethylene dimethylethers (OME) in the form of short molecule chains in particular are ideal fuel additives: They are non-toxic liquids that can be mixed well with conventional fuels and have a high cetane number that enhances the fuel’s ability to ignite. Presently, there is no economically efficient method to produce OME on the technical scale. All known synthesis paths require expensive initial substances and sophisticated separation of products from undesired by-products. For the first time, researchers of the KIT Institute of Catalysis Research and Technology (IKFT) have now developed a simple method for the synthesis of OME. Inexpensive standard chemicals are applied. They can be produced in an environmentally compatible manner from renewable resources. First, an alcohol, such as methanol, is needed. The second component required is an aldehyde, such as formaldehyde that may be obtained from methanol. Both substances are fed into a reactor together with an aqueous and an organic solvent as well as an acid catalyst. As a result, an organic and an aqueous phase are formed. The desired OME product is soluble in the organic phase, whereas the by-products remain in the aqueous phase. Consequently, the product can be separated easily. Suitable organic solvents are fuels, such as diesel. Consequently, the fuel additives can be produced directly in the presence of the fuel.
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Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
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Phone: +49 721 608-28460