A catalyst is a substance that is used to increase the rate and control the direction of chemical reactions to convert soluble carbohydrates into hydrocarbons. A unique aspect of this continuous chemical transformation is that the catalysts are never consumed — they simply provide the place where the chemical changes take place.
Catalytic conversion of plant sugars gives Virent several key advantages over competing technologies:
Unlike interrupted batch conversion processes such as fermentation, Virent’s fuel and chemicals production is continuous. A few hours after we begin the BioForming® process, the desired products are generated on the back end. The required volumes of fuel or chemicals we are producing are created non-stop, which means improved process efficiency.
Catalysts are commonly used in refineries and petrochemical facilities today, so robustness and scalability of catalytic conversion has already been proven.
Compared to microbes and bacteria, a catalyst is not limited to a specific feedstock molecule. This functionality is what allows Virent’s process to be feedstock flexible – a wide variety of plant sugars can be put through Virent’s BioForming process at once, and a catalyst can convert them all in the same production cycle.
Unlike other processes that are designed to produce a specific molecule which then requires further processing, catalytic conversion can be tuned to produce a wide variety of molecules. Catalysts can be customized to match complex fuel or chemical properties and offer true drop-in replacements.