Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.

On August 19th 2021, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) of Richland, Washington announced that its process for converting ethanol sourced from renewable or industrial waste gases into jet or diesel fuel was being scaled up. (PNNL is one of the United States Department of Energy’s national laboratories.) This was being done in collaboration with Oregon State University (OSU) and chemical recycling specialists LanzaTech of Skokie, Illinois.

PNNL’s newly patented catalyst converts ethanol into a chemical called n-butene, which has uses in jet fuels and industrial lubricants. Here, a material made from silver, zirconia and silica catalyses the chemical reactions necessary to convert ethanol to n-butene, or butadiene if the reaction conditions are modified. An initial study into the process was published in the journal ACS Catalysis in July 2020. In November 2020, another study was published in the journal ChemCatChem, where it was found that if the catalyst loses activity, it can be regenerated relatively straightforwardly by removing a carbon-based coating that can build up over time called coke.

PNNL intends to build a quarter-sized, commercial-scale test reactor via 3D printing using methods developed with OSU that would integrate PNNL’s process into 3D printed modular microchannel reactors; PNNL claims that this would increase the reaction’s surface-area-to-volume ratio. In addition, PNNL aims to have LanzaTech supply ethanol for the test reactor, whose patented process converts carbon-rich residues from industries like steel manufacturing and oil refining into ethanol.

PNNL proclaimed that its process would reduce carbon dioxide emissions in n-butene production by using renewable or recycled carbon feedstocks. (The term feedstock can be defined as “Raw material or fuel required for an industrial process.”) It also argued that one of the largest barriers to using biomass for fuel is having to transport it long distances to large, centralised production plants, ergo its modular technology would enable commercial-scale bioreactors to be built near where biomass is produced. Furthermore, PNNL boasted that an even more efficient catalyst formulation would be used for when the process is scaled up.

3D printing is an amazing tool. It can grow your small business or start a mini revolution in an industry. Explore what it can do for you when you contact us today.

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