Get updates on COVID-19 research at COVID-19 Resource
Crop Biotech Update

QUB Researcher Turns Dirty Aluminum Foil into Biofuel Catalyst

August 2, 2017

A researcher at Queen's University Belfast in Ireland has discovered a way to convert dirty aluminum foil into a biofuel catalyst. This development could help solve the global waste and energy problems.

In the UK, around 20,000 tons of aluminum foil packaging is wasted each year, most of which end up in landfills or are incinerated since it's usually contaminated by grease and oil, which can damage recycling equipment. Ahmed Osman, an Early Career Researcher from Queen's University's School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, worked with engineers to create an innovative crystallization method which can produce 100% pure single crystals of aluminum salts from the contaminated foil. This is the starting material for the preparation of the catalyst.

The team obtained the catalysts by dissolving the waste foil in an acid solution and purifying it via recystallization using deionized water, producing aluminum crystal catalysts. It was found that the catalysts derived from waste foil showed higher catalytic activity than AC550, a commercial catalyst, due to its superior surface structure, stability and acidity.

This new development will allow a much more environmentally-friendly, effective and cheaper production of dimethyl ether, the most promising biofuel to date. One big factor of this is that producing the catalyst from aluminum foil costs about £120/kg while the commercial alumina catalyst comes in at around £305/kg.