WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – A company based in the Purdue Research Park is working with the Department of Energy to improve alternative fuel production.
“Many chemicals go into everyday products which the consumers never see these chemicals as their individual components, but many of these chemicals come from petroleum,” Spero Energy research scientist Ian Klein said. “One way that we can make these products greener is to produce these chemicals from a biomass feedstock.”
Klein works in the lab to find an alternative to petroleum products. Spero uses a one-step process to break down a component found in wood called lignin to create a green chemical that can replace petroleum.
“We break that lignin down selectively into two molecules which can be used in the flavor and fragrance industries as additives to products such as soaps and perfumes,” Klein said.
The Department of Energy has granted Spero $150 thousand to improve the production of alternative fuels. Chief Technology Officer Besudeb Saha said right now Spero focuses on the fragrance and flavor industries, but hopes to move to the large-scale transportation industry in a few years.
“The fuel that we would produce through our process would be a direct replacement for gasoline,” Klein said.
“The transportation oil market is completely based on petroleum-based products and there is a fear that petroleum is diminishing very rapidly and who knows people are saying 50 years from now, 100 years from now the reservoir may be empty,” Klein said.
Spero is in the process of expanding production.
“We are currently in the scale-up phase,” Klein said. “We are increasing the size of our reactors by 1000 times to show that our process can work on a larger scale.”
Klein said in the next year they hope to be producing alternative fuels at a large-scale and in two years producing fuels for commercial use.