Low Cost Hydrogenation of Bio-oils




There is a strong need for reliable and efficient energy alternatives to non-renewable petroleum. One renewable alternative for energy is bio-oil derived by biomass pyrolysis. However, bio-oil is impractical because it is corrosive to containment materials, self-reactive, and prone to polymerization, making it unfit for use within existing U.S. energy infrastructure. A solution to the corrosive and self-reactive nature of pyrolysis oil is to convert the bio-oil to a more stable, reduced form with decreased oxygen content by using a technique known as electrocatalytic hydrogenation. Standard techniques for electrocatalytic hydrogenation require ionic electrolytes to ensure conductivity. The ionic electrolyte requirement increases the costs of the overall system. The additional costs include expense incurred as a result of the realized cost for the salts or ionic reagents, as well as the process cost incurred as a result of the need for post-reaction salt extraction or recycling. The increased costs of the salts and salt extraction can be avoided by using a solid polymer electrolyte electrolyzer for the reduction.


Description of Technology


This technology is the refining of bio-oil using electrocatalytic hydrogenation with a solid polymer electrolyte cell. This technology achieves bio-oil stabilization and energy upgrading by bypassing conventional hydrogenation with hydrogen gas and eliminated ionic reagents.  This technology also has mild reaction conditions (ambient pressure. 75oC) and low cost catalytic materials.  The low cost catalytic materials are a metal coated solid polymer electrolyte membrane which allows for higher efficiency and throughput.


Key Benefits

  • Cost Savings: Elimination of ionic reagents reduces the overall input cost for the system
  • Resources Savings: Energy efficiency in the upgrading process;
  • Catalysts: low cost and long lived 
  • Increased Oil Stability: reduced oils to improve shelf life, could be piped through existing oil infrastructure


  • Bio based fuels
  • High value bio-oils


Patent Status


Patent pending




Chun Ho Lam, James Jackson, Christopher Saffron, Dennis Miller


Tech ID


TEC2013-0010, TEC2013-0030


Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University