Biodiesel a maggiore efficienza dal cartamo

di Marco Mancini 55

Il rendimento del biodiesel prodotto da colture oleaginose come il cartamo potrebbe essere aumentato fino al 24 per cento con un nuovo processo sviluppato dai chimici della UC (University of California) Davis. Il metodo converte sia gli oli vegetali che i carboidrati in biodiesel in un unico processo, e dovrebbe anche migliorare le prestazioni del biodiesel, in particolare nella stagione fredda. Un documento che descrive il metodo, che è già stato brevettato, è on-line sulla rivista Energy & Fuels.

I metodi convenzionali di produzione del biodiesel prevedono l’estrazione di oli vegetali che vengono convertiti successivamente in esteri alchilici di acidi grassi.

Questi ultimi possono essere utilizzati per fornire energia ai motori, ha dichiarato Mark Mascal, professore di chimica alla UC Davis e co-autore dello studio, insieme al ricercatore Edward Nikitin. Questo processo esclude dalla lavorazione la porzione di carboidrati della pianta: gli zuccheri, gli amidi e la cellulosa che compongono gli steli, le foglie, le bucce, i semi e le altre strutture.

Il nuovo processo converte i carboidrati in sostanze chimiche chiamate esteri di acido levulinico, nello stesso momento e nello stesso processo in cui gli oli vengono convertiti in acidi grassi. Il risultante è un cocktail di combustibile che funziona meglio anche alle basse temperature, rispetto alla resa del biodiesel convenzionale.

Il cocktail di carburante così costituito ha una gamma di ebollizione simile al biodiesel convenzionale, ma è più sottile, diventa ceroso a una temperatura inferiore.

Le prestazioni a basse temperature sono un problema significativo con il B100 (il biodiesel convenzionale), ha spiegato Mascal.

La nostra speranza è che questa miscela di esteri levulinato e biodiesel fornisca un rendimento migliore anche a temperature generalmente proibitive per il biodiesel tradizionale.
Gli esteri di acido levulinico sono atossici e sono utilizzati come additivi alimentari.
I costi del nuovo processo sono leggermente superiori a quelli per la produzione di biodiesel convenzionale, ma dovrebbero essere compensati da una migliore resa del carburante e da migliori prestazioni.

I ricercatori stanno già collaborando con la Bently Biofuels di Minden, nel Nevada, per testare le prestazioni delle miscele di levulinati e B100.

[Fonte: Sciencedaily]

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