by RMIT University (formerly known as Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Melbourne Technical College).
SPONGE-like catalysts could transform biodiesel production and chemical manufacturing.
Researchers have developed a powerful, low-cost method for recycling used cooking oil and agricultural waste into biodiesel, and turning food scraps and plastic rubbish into high-value products.
The method harnesses a new type of ultra-efficient catalyst that can make low-carbon biodiesel and other valuable complex molecules out of diverse, impure raw materials.
Waste cooking oil currently has to go through an energy-intensive cleaning process to be used in biodiesel, because commercial production methods can only handle pure feedstocks with 1-2% contaminants.
The new catalyst is so tough it can make biodiesel from low-grade ingredients, known as feedstock, containing up to 50% contaminants.
It is so efficient it could double the productivity of manufacturing processes for transforming rubbish like food scraps, microplastics and old tyres into high-value chemical precursors used to make anything from medicines and fertilisers to biodegradable packaging.
The catalyst design is reported in a new study from an international collaboration led by RMIT University, published in Nature Catalysis.