Submitted to: Review Article
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/2/2021
Publication Date: 3/18/2021
Citation: Elkasabi, Y.M., Mullen, C.A. 2021. Progress on biobased industrial carbons as thermochemical biorefinery coproducts. Review Article. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.energyfuels.1c00182?rel=cite-as&ref=PDF&jav=VoR.
Interpretive Summary: Global temperature increases have caused scientists to look for methods for converting plant materials and animal wastes (“biomass”) into renewable fuels, in place of fuels from petroleum. Doing so would help to reduce greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. To make this process more affordable, it is desirable for refiners to also produce chemicals that will sell for a profit and are in high demand. One often neglected category of chemicals are industrial carbons, which are carbon solids that are often produced by petroleum refineries and used to make many materials like aluminum, steel, iron, or tires. Industrial carbons from biomass have the potential to make biofuels more affordable, if they perform as well as those carbons from petroleum. This article reviews and presents the existing research on industrial carbons from biomass. It discusses current trends in experiments that have already been done, and it outlines advantages and disadvantages of different approaches.
Technical Abstract: Industrial carbons are a category of high purity carbon (>95 wt%) materials that are solid at room temperature, produced in bulk as refinery byproducts, and subsequently used in a wide variety of applications. The most dominant industrial carbons are calcined coke, coal tar pitch, carbon black, and graphite. The manufacturing sector consumes the large majority of industrial carbons as electrode materials, carbon binders, tire reinforcement fillers, and ink components. As a consequence of consuming fossil-derived industrial carbons, metals and chemicals, manufacturing constitutes one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Thermochemical conversion of biomass offers promising pathways for both the integration of drop-in fuels with refinery infrastructure and for the production of carbonaceous solid materials. Conversely, over the past two decades, most biofuels efforts focused on fuel production technologies and high-value small molecule chemicals as coproducts. This review summarizes recent progress towards developing biobased industrial carbons, particularly as coproducts from thermochemical conversions of biomass.