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New catalysts for sustainable liquid biofuels

Country of Origin: Singapore
Reference Number: TOSG20170712002
Publication Date: 12 July 2017


A Singapore educational and research institution has developed novel enhanced catalysts for sustainable liquid biofuels in the form of capsules by encapsulating syngas (synthesis gas)-to-liquid catalytically active species into a selective penetrable shell of zeolite materials, at approximately 99% of encapsulation efficiency. The institution is seeking licensing or research cooperation agreements with industrial MNEs or SMEs of all sizes.


The Fischer-Tropsche (FT) process enables conversion of syngas obtained from renewable sources (e.g. biomass gasification) into high-value fuel equivalent to gasoline. This process typically requires two-step reactions whereby syngas generated from biomass gasification is first converted to large chain hydrocarbon followed by hydrocracking and isomerisation reaction. 

The two-step process requires two different reactors and catalytic materials, and this potentially increases the energy consumption and the overall cost of the syngas-to-gasoline process.

The institution has developed novel enhanced catalysts in the form of capsules by encapsulating syngas-to-liquid catalytically active species into a selective penetrable shell of zeolite materials. To date, approximately 99% of encapsulation efficiency with defect-free, smooth surface and uniform capsule shapes has been achieved.

These capsule catalysts are expected to possess dual functionalities, i.e. the inner surface is capable of bringing about syngas-to-liquid reactions, while the surface pores of the zeolite shell will enable catalytic cracking and isomerisation to occur, thus achieving a one-step process.

The catalyst which possesses dual functionalities comprises the following specifications:

- Average particle size ranges between 700 and 1000 nm in diameter;

- Smooth and defect-free spherical shape coated with selective penetrable zeolite materials as the shell of the catalyst encapsulating FT catalytic active species; and

- During FT reaction, syngas penetrates through the inner surface of the catalyst to reach the active catalytic sites for facilitation of the formation of long chain hydrocarbon. At the catalyst shell where the zeolite material resides, the long chain hydrocarbon molecules will be hydrolysed and generate short chain hydrocarbon with high octane number. The technologies for both catalyst production and conversion of syngas to liquid transport fuels are highly scalable.

The institution seeks R&D and licensing partnerships with industry players (SMEs of all sizes or MNEs) with an interest to use this technology for product development.


Advantages and Innovations

Potential applications:

These catalysts can be used for gas-to-liquid (GTL) conversion of syngas (e.g. from wood waste) to light-chain liquid hydrocarbons for liquid fuels.

In Singapore's context, biomass has been identified as one of the sustainable and economically viable solutions as cellulosic feedstock can be obtained from waste agricultural and horticultural industries, either locally or from neighbouring regions.

The adoption of GTL for conversion of biomass to syngas using these catalysts allows diversification of energy sources within Singapore as well as ensuring energy sustainability.

- Produce higher value-added products using this technology as compared to the conventional gas-to-liquid process;

- Reduce overall cost of the process as only one reactor is required with these novel catalysts as compared to two reactors using the existing technology;

- Produce clean and high-quality product: Gasoline-equivalent (sulphur, aromatic and nitrogen-free fuel);

- Short capsule catalyst synthesis time; and

- Catalyst production is highly scalable.

Stage Of Development

Under development/lab tested

Requested partner

The institution seeks to work with SMEs of all sizes or MNEs in a licensing or research cooperation agreement partnership.

The partner sought could be a technology provider or an industrial player from the chemicals or energy sector who is keen to explore the following types of partnerships:

i) Licensing agreement:
The partner can license the technology to further develop and commercialise it to offer to their customers.

ii) Research cooperation agreement:
The partner can undertake joint R

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