Synthesis of biobased Oxymethylenedimethylethers

The project deals with the synthesis of bio-based fuel additives for diesel engines. The additives to be researched are oxymethylene ethers (OME), whose combustion is characterized by a significantly lower formation of soot particles compared to diesel. In addition, the use of biomass as a starting material offers the advantage of a closed CO2 cycle. Within the research project, biomass is converted to OME via various intermediates.

Using the OxFA process, which was developed at the Chair of Chemical Reaction Engineering (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg), methyl formate with over 90 % selectivity can be obtained from biomass under appropriate process conditions. Starting from methyl formate, the components OME1 (dimethoxymethane) and formaldehyde, both required for the OME formation will be synthesized in various hydrogenation and oxidation steps (see figure). In the research project investigations from a catalytic and process engineering point of view are focussed.

In collaboration with the group “Catalytic Systems for Chemical Energy Storage” (Patrick Schühle), two steps of the process route are investigated in detail. One work package addresses the hydrogenation of methyl formate to methanol in a batch and a continuous hydrogenation plant. Thereby suitable process parameters shall be determined in order to synthesize methanol in high purity. In the second part, the liquid phase oxidation of methanol to OME1 is investigated.  Using a microreactor system, the activity of various homogeneous catalysts and the determination of suitable process parameters are envisaged.

The introduced subproject is part of the project “Research and development of an emission-free and strongly emission-reduced drive system using the example of rail transport” (DBA01701), which is located at the Helmholtz Institute Erlangen-Nuremberg (working group Prof. P. Wasserscheid) and funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Energy and Technology (StMWi).