The importance of liquid fuels in the present day world cannot be overemphasized. Liquid fuels are popular due to their high energy density and ease of use. The transportation sector, depending almost entirely on the use of liquid fuels either directly or indirectly, represents a large fraction of the entire energy consumption spectrum. To date, the major liquid fuels in use are hydrocarbons derived from oil extracted from deep below the earth, preferred due to their easy access with the aid of established technologies and relatively low cost. The recent volatility in petroleum price is yet another signal pointing to the finiteness of this source of energy. By varying accounts, conventional oil production is predicted to peak in next 10 to 50 years.
A large number of developed, as well as developing, nations import oil for the transportation sector to support their economic activities. The looming possibility of the decline in the availability of oil is forcing the nations to consider alternate energy sources such as biomass and coal to supply liquid hydrocarbons for transportation.
Additionally, the usage of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and industrialization has raised the earthís atmospheric CO2 concentration from the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm to the current value of 383 ppm. Climate models available in literature predict equilibrium sensitivity to doubled CO2 concentration in the atmosphere to be around 2-3 o C, which based on one conservative estimate, can cause sea level to rise by 25m. A number of other unprecedented harmful consequences have been outlined in the recently published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. According to data available in literature, stabilization of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at twice the pre-industrial concentration level will require 10 TW(1TW = 1012 watts) of additional carbon-emission-free power by 2050. Worldwide primary energy consumption in 2001 was 13.5 TW which is expected to increase to 27.6 TW by 2050. Thus, there is a serious need to decouple the energy usage and the release of CO2 to the atmosphere by using carbon-neutral sources.
Our vision of sustainable energy for the future revolves around being able to harness energy from the sun, directly or indirectly while minimizing the emissions affecting the environment. Thus, our group works towards developing sustainable processes which integrate different energy sources like biomass and hydrogen, producing high density liquid fuels capable of directly replacing petroleum derived fuels.