Investigation into Production of Renewable Fuels using Electrolysis and Renewable Feedstocks
Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences
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Currently, the world is relying on non-renewable fossil fuels with declining reserves as the leading source of energy and product source. However, with continued increase in energy consumption due to the world population continuing to grow and the technological advancement of developing countries, relying on non-renewable fossil fuels is problematic. Production of high value renewable fuels such as branched chain hydrocarbons using electrolysis or renewable feedstocks and production of renewable product sources could help alleviate the demand for non-renewable fossil fuels. Electrolysis to produce branched chain hydrocarbons was utilized to facilitate product generation between carboxylic acids and olefins. Utilizing Kolbe electrolysis, a carboxylic acid was decarboxylated at the anode to produce a radical to attack the double bond on an olefin and create a new radical. The olefin radical can then dimerize with another carboxylic acid radical and form a branched hydrocarbon. Unfortunately, this usage of Kolbe electrolysis is not a viable way to create branched chain hydrocarbons. Straight chain hydrocarbons were produced at concentrations generally 30 to 165 times greater than that of the branched chain hydrocarbons. A possible renewable feedstock was also examined. Grindelic acid is extracted from the <italic>Grindelia squarrosa</italic> plant and is being examined as a renewable feedstock for production of branched chain hydrocarbon fuels. In order to successfully monitor the amounts of grindelic acid extracted from <italic>Grindelia squarrosa</italic>, an approximately 97 to 98 percent pure grindelic acid standard was successfully isolated utilizing high performance liquid chromatography. Lastly, decolorization of the carboxylic acid extract from <italic>Grindelia squarrosa</italic> was examined. Using activated Nuchar carbon and silica gel, a pathway for decolorization of the carboxylic acid extract was determined. Along with the successful removal of color was a 76 percent recovery of grindelic acid. This research highlights that continued advances in green chemistry is needed to address growing concerns about the environment and nonrenewable product sources.