Petroleum Substitutes from Plants

LI Heng and SUN Peng, two female doctoral students at Nanjing University of Technology, recently announced that they have found petroleum substitutes in straw, dried sweet potato, and sugar cane. LI and SUN developed through countless experiments an approach to separate sorbitol and lactic acid from straw, dried sweet potato, and sugar cane, two chemicals widely employed in producing dehydrated sorbitol and acrylic acid. The effort has not only led them to finding the inexpensive and effective base materials, but also helped them work out innovative carbon supported nickel oxide catalysts and NaY zeolite catalysts with and without potassium salt modifications, which improves the selectivity of two biological processes, and raises the conversion ratio. The findings have been published in CARBON and Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, respectively.  



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