Using Quantitative Techniques to Meet Demands for Sustainable Energy

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Global energy demand is rapidly increasing and known stockpiles of chemical fuel are depleting. In order to meet our future energy requirements, research into alternative and sustainable forms of energy is critical.

Pittcon 2019 will feature a symposium on the Application of Analytical Chemistry in Biofuel Study, exploring the latest research into new renewable energy technologies. This article gives an overview of the research that will be showcased at Pittcon 2019.

The use of engineered microorganisms to synthesize complex molecules for human use is widespread in the pharmaceutical industry. The development of similar techniques for biofuel synthesis is currently an active area of research which could pave the way to affordable and sustainable biologically-derived fuels with low lifecycle carbon emissions.

In order to effectively develop biosynthetic pathways for biofuel production, thorough characterization of the metabolic products of a cell is vital. This naturally requires analytical technologies which are capable of detecting and identifying complex molecules in solution.

Recent work in this field includes the use of liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to carry out targeted metabolomic profile of genetically modified microorganisms, and the study of extracellular electron transfer in bacteria of the Shewanella genus. It is hoped that the thorough understanding of these processes could be used to advance waste-to-energy technologies such as biodiesel synthesis and bacterial fuel cells.

The need to simultaneously reduce waste and increase renewable energy production capacity on a global scale has fueled research into many different waste-to-energy technologies. The goal of this research is to develop ways to produce hydrocarbon fuels using feedstocks such as wastewater and atmospheric carbon dioxide, and powering the reaction using renewable energy. This offers the huge benefits of massively reducing lifecycle carbon emissions from fuels, and replacing unsustainable petrochemical fuels with a renewable alternative that is fully compatible with existing infrastructures.

Artificial photosynthesis is one active area of waste-to-energy research, the aim of which is to develop catalysts capable of converting atmospheric carbon oxides into hydrocarbon fuels using solar radiation directly. The development of such enzymes depends on the ability to characterize complex catalyst dynamics, which is being achieved through the use of Infrared Spectroelectrochemistry (IRSEC).

Shimazu and Thermo Fisher will be among the companies present at Pittcon 2019. Both will be exhibiting cutting-edge systems for detailed chemical analysis, including a range of IR spectroscopy tools and accessories.

Crude oil is the world’s primary source of petroleum fuels. Research into oil analysis is crucial for the characterization of such fuels, and instrumental for petroleum forensic techniques used to identify oil spills and leaks.

A number of experts and producers of advanced chromatography systems will be speaking and exhibiting at Pittcon 2019. Talks will cover recent developments in the application of comprehensive two-dimensional gas spectrometry and time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GCxGC-TOFMS) in petroleum forensics, and the use of gas chromatography-vacuum ultraviolet (GC-VUV) as a faster and more affordable alternative to detailed hydrocarbon analysis (DHA) and GCxGC.

Companies including VUV Technologies, AMTEK Petrolab Company, VICI and LECO corporation will be onsite at Pittcon 2019 offering their expertise and showcasing the latest in analytical technologies for the petrochemical industry.

The transport sector consumes accounts for around 25% of global energy consumption, and depends on portable energy-dense fuel. Currently this fuel is largely derived from unsustainable petroleum. Thus, efficient and cost-effective energy storage has a crucial part to play in the transition to sustainable energy sources. Research in this field broadly aims to produce devices with the energy density of batteries but the cycle life and charge times that are typically associated with capacitors.

Nanoscale investigation of electrochemical processes is vital to the development of the next generation of high-capacity energy storage materials. Recent work using coupled operando electrochemical methods such as electrochemical-atomic force microscopy (EC-AFM) have shed light on the complex phase-changing redox reactions that can occur in electrochemical devices such as Lithium batteries. In addition, X-ray based methods including scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) have been successfully used to provide spatially resolved information about the changing physical states of electrocatalysts.

These procedures could be instrumental to the development of the energy storage devices of the future. World-renowned manufacturer of high-performance scientific instruments and analytical solutions Bruker will be at Pittcon 2019, showcasing their top-of-the-line XRD and EC-AFM systems.

The development of new sustainable energy technologies demands detailed analytical methods capable of identifying complex molecules and characterizing physical and chemical processes at the nanoscale. Pittcon 2019 is the best place to learn about how the latest analytical technology is being used to push the frontiers of energy research.

As well as hosting talks from world-renowned researchers and experts, Pittcon 2019 is proud to welcome a number of the world’s leading providers of analytical systems for techniques including LC-MS, GC-MS, GCxGC, GC-TOFMS, GC-VUV, IRSEC, STXM, XRD and EC-AFM.

About Pittcon

Pittcon® is a registered trademark of The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, a Pennsylvania non-profit organization. Co-sponsored by the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, Pittcon is the premier annual conference and exposition on laboratory science.

Proceeds from Pittcon fund science education and outreach at all levels, kindergarten through adult. Pittcon donates more than a million dollars a year to provide financial and administrative support for various science outreach activities including science equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public science centers, libraries and museums.

Visit pittcon.org for more information.

References

  • Baidoo, E. E. K. & Keasling, J. D. Microbial metabolomics: welcome to the real world! Metabolomics 9, 755–756 (2013).
  • Pirbadian, S. et al. Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 nanowires are outer membrane and periplasmic extensions of the extracellular electron transport components. doi:10.1073/pnas.1410551111
  • Turning Wastewater into Renewable Energy - AZo Cleantech. Available at: https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=845. (Accessed: 6th March 2019)
  • Huynh, M. T. et al. Concerted One-Electron Two-Proton Transfer Processes in Models Inspired by the Tyr-His Couple of Photosystem II. ACS Cent. Sci. 3, 372–380 (2017).
  • Piotrowski, P. K. et al. Elucidating Environmental Fingerprinting Mechanisms of Unconventional Gas Development through Hydrocarbon Analysis. Anal. Chem. 90, 5466–5473 (2018).
  • Cochran, J., Diekmann, J., Wispinski, D. & Walsh, P. Determination of Hydrocarbon Group Types and Select Hydrocarbons in Gasoline in Less than 15 Minutes Using Gas Chromatography-Vacuum Ultraviolet Spectroscopy.
  • Augustyn, V. et al. High-rate electrochemical energy storage through Li+ intercalation pseudocapacitance. Nat. Mater. 12, (2013).

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