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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M007960/1
Title: Design of advanced biofuels through optimisation of fuel molecular structure
Principal Investigator: Hellier, Dr PR
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
BP (UK) Cella Energy Limited
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 March 2015 Ends: 28 February 2018 Value (£): 306,773
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Energy
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Oct 2014 Eng Fellowship interviews 6 and 7 October 2014 Announced
20 Aug 2014 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 20 August 2014 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Future advanced biofuels will require the integration of new chemical and biological processes and advanced combustion technologies. The heavy reliance worldwide on abundant fossil fuels over the last 50 years means that the development of new sustainable sources of fuels and associated technologies must follow a steep research and development curve over the next 20 to 30 years.

Fossils fuels have driven industrial growth for the past two hundred years, however, the security of supply and the continued sustainability of utilising such fuels is increasingly uncertain. The accumulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels is resulting in global climate change, and supplies of the most easily extracted sources of liquid fossil fuels are diminishing.

Currently utilized biofuels for internal combustion engines derived from vegetable crops reduce tailpipe emissions of fossil bound carbon, but there are increasing concerns that producing fuels from crops that compete with food production may not be a sustainable approach. Furthermore, current bio-fuels require a further processing step after crop harvesting before they are fit for purpose; for example, vegetable oils must be heated and reacted with an alcohol before they can be used as bio-diesel.

Advances in chemical engineering and molecular biology are opening new routes for the production of biofuels that do not compete with food crops, for example from waste biomass or photosynthetic micro-organisms (such as micro-algae). Proposed EU regulation will favour the use of these advanced biofuels and demand that they contribute 5 % of all liquid fuels for road transport in the EU by 2020.

In this Fellowship, I will investigate prototype fuels for spark ignition and diesel engines, identified in collaboration with researchers and industry working on the chemical and biological conversion processes for producing advanced biofuels. One such collaboration will continue with UCL's Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology who have developed methods of genetically engineering photo-synthetic micro-organisms to increase rates of fuels production, and also alter the fuel molecular make-up.

The structure in which individual atoms are arranged to create a fuel molecule impacts significantly on how the molecule performs as a fuel, and my investigations will determine which features of advanced biofuel molecular structure are most desirable. Identifying features which can be achieved through chemical and biological production methods will guide the development of these processes. This will guide further combustion experiments, resulting in the iterative design of advanced biofuels on a molecular level for sustainable production and use.

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