27/07/2017

QUB Researcher Discovers Way To Convert Used Tinfoil Into Fuel

A researcher at Queen's University Belfast has discovered a way to convert dirty aluminium foil into fuel.

The breakthrough could help to solve global waste and energy problems.

Ahmed Osman, an Early Career Researcher, has worked with engineers at the university to create an innovative crystallisation method, which obtains 100% pure single crystals of aluminium salts from the contaminated foil. This is the starting material for the preparation of alumina catalyst.

Usually, to produce this type of alumina it would have to come from bauxite ore, which is mined in countries such as West Africa, the West Indies and Australia, causing huge environmental damage.
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Osman, who took on the project under the University's Sustainable Energy, Pioneering Research Programme, has created a solution which is much more environmentally-friendly, effective and cheaper than the commercial catalyst which is currently available on the market for the production of dimethyl ether - a biofuel which is regarded as the most promising of the 21st century.

Osman said the making the catalyst from aluminium foil cost about £120/kg while the commercial alumina catalyst comes in at around £305/kg.

He said: "I have always been inspired by Chemistry and I believe that catalysis especially can make the world a better place. One day I took a walk through our laboratories at Queen's and found lots of Aluminium foil waste so I did a little digging and after speaking to my colleagues, I ran my experiment and was astonished by the ultrapure single crystals – I didn't expect it to be 100% pure.

"This breakthrough is significant as not only is the alumina more pure than its commercial counterpart, it could also reduce the amount of aluminium foil going to landfill while also sidestepping the environmental damage associated with mining bauxite."

(CD/LM)

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