A scientist at Queen’s University in Belfast has developed a way to transform aluminium foil into a material used in biofuel production.
Ahmed Osman, from the university’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, led the research – finding a crystallisation method to convert the foil, which often can’t be recycled due to contamination issues, into a potential catalyst for biofuel production. Ahmed extracted ‘100% pure single crystals of aluminium salts’ from the foil, this is the base material for making the alumina catalyst used to develop biofuels.
He said: “I have always been inspired by chemistry and I believe that catalysis especially can make the world a better place. One day I took a walk through our laboratories at Queen’s and found lots of aluminium foil waste so I did a little digging and after speaking to my colleagues, I ran my experiment and was astonished by the ultrapure single crystals – I didn’t expect it to be 100% pure.
“At Queen’s, our scientists and engineers often work hand in hand on common challenging problems for the society. By using our joint expertise, we have been able to tackle the issue of sustainable development and come up with a research solution which lies in an area between chemistry and chemical engineering.
“This breakthrough is significant as not only is the alumina more pure than its commercial counterpart, it could also reduce the amount of aluminium foil going to landfill while also sidestepping the environmental damage associated with mining bauxite (typically needed to produce this type of alumina).”