5th International Conference of the Cluster of Excellence “Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass”: Conference Report 2017


Dr. Alexis Bordet
Institute of Technical and Macromolecular Chemistry (ITMC)

Dr. Philipp Grande
Institute of Technical and Macromolecular Chemistry (ITMC)

Marius Zubel M.Sc.
Institute for Combustion Engines (VKA)

Dipl.-Wirt.-Ing.​ Benedikt Heuser
COO Cluster of Excellence „Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass“


The 5th International Conference on Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass (TMFB) organized by the Cluster of Excellence was held from June 20th to 22nd in Aachen, Germany. Nearly 200 scientists took the opportunity to discuss the synthesis, production and combustion of modern biofuels and, like last year, alternative fuels derived from carbon dioxide as well as from renewable electricity. Internationally renowned experts as well as TMFB members presented their findings and current research activities within the Cluster of Excellence. The program also contained a poster session, which included a poster award for the two most convincing posters. As in previous years, a framework program providing the chance of networking and interdisciplinary exchange and discussions completed the conference.

  Prof. Daoutidis (University of Minnesota) TMFB_RWTH

20/06/17, Morning

Professor Daoutidis (University of Minnesota) opened the morning keynotes session with a talk entitled “Biomass to Fuels: A Multi-Scale Systems Engineering Perspective”. He first pointed out the multi-scale nature of engineering biomass conversion, and explained the importance for chemistry to connect the feedstock to the process design. He then introduced a new tool for network generation and analysis in biomass conversion called “Rule Input Network Generator (RING)”, and evidenced its usefulness for example to find optimal gasoline-oxygenate blend and synthesis routes. He also presented the different challenges associated with biomass conversion processes, and gave some tools to optimize the design of these processes in order to minimize the production costs. He concluded his talk by evidencing the tremendous challenges and opportunities arising from the new industry that is biomass conversion.

  Dr. Foust from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory TMFB_RWTH

Professor Daoutidis was followed by Dr. Foust from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory with a talk about “Bio Fuel Properties Categorized by Oxygen Functional Group”. In his talk he outlined that the fuel demand will still rise over the next decades until electric vehicles and other alternative solution gain a big enough market penetration. Therefore, the efficiency improvement, especially of gasoline engines, is of utmost importance. Here biofuel blends can play a major role, since their molecular features can improve the knocking resistance and hence, the efficiency can be improved. He presented results of an extensive screening of biofuel blends in gasoline and showed their impact on the research octane number and other for combustion relevant properties. It was found that alcohol fuels are most suitable to increase engine efficiency.

  Prof. Nylund (VVT Technical Research Center Finland) TMFB_RWTH

20/06/17, Afternoon

The evening keynotes were opened by Professor Nylund (VVT Technical Research Center Finland) with a presentation on the decarbonisation of the transport sector. He outlined many current projects and research activities in the Scandinavian countries where biofuels are investigated and successfully applied in vehicle fleets. Furthermore, it was pointed out that one energy carrier will not be able to meet all needs and that the future of transport will be highly diversified. Additionally, he mentioned an increasing interest of automotive manufacturers in drop-in biofuels in order to improve the carbon footprint of their cars.

  Dr. Schamel from Ford TMFB_RWTH

Dr. Schamel from Ford was giving the last keynote of the day with a talk about future engine technologies and the role of renewable fuels for these technologies. He first showed the limit for a CO2 reduction which could theoretically be achieved with a conventional combustion engine, using fossil fuels. Then he showed how the CO2 could further be decreased by a hybridization of the powertrain and in a final step he showed the potential of renewable fuels, especially if the well-to-wheel CO2 emissions are regarded. Furthermore, during his talk he outlined the potential of renewable natural gas, which was produced from biomass or electricity, and of novel e-Fuels like DME or OMEs. Finally he concluded that it is not enough to only look at CO2 emissions from cars alone, but that it is necessary to look at the whole process chain from fuel production to the combustion in an engine.

  Prof. Tanguy from TOTAL TMFB_RWTH

21/06/17, Morning

The second day of the conference was opened by Professor Tanguy from TOTAL where he was talking about the ongoing energy transition and mobility. He pointed out that over one third of the EU’s energy demand is due to the transport sector and that the increasing urbanization is the key driver for this demand, since mobility is a societal need. The only way to decrease the energy demand is to increase the transportation efficiency by new infrastructure and powertrain concepts. While hybridization and electrification can have a big impact on short distance transportation, the charging infrastructure will still be a huge challenge. Fuel cell vehicles on the other hand are well suited for larger vehicle classes and long distance driving, however the technology is not matured yet and the corresponding infrastructure has to be built as well.

  Prof. Sauer from the Institute of Catalysis Research and Technology (IKFT) TMFB_RWTH

Next, Prof. Sauer from the Institute of Catalysis Research and Technology (IKFT) gave a short overview about the historical development of commercial fuels from regenerative sources and the activities of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology ‘(KIT) in this field. He presented the bioliq process, synthesizing Dimethylether (DME) and Methanol fuels via CO2 rich syngas discussing kinetic an mechanism of methanol synthesis in detail. Then, he presented a variation of the process to synthesize oxymethylene ethers (OME) from syngas, pointing out its relevance as a designer fuel of world-wide interest with excellent combustion properties both as a fuel and as a Diesel blend. Finally, Prof. Sauer raised awareness for the need of sustainable production of sufficient carbon sources for biofuels, taking into account factors like efficiency, costs, process tolerance, social acceptance, implementation in future energy system, and the importance of teaching and educating up-coming scientists to allow for this transition, from fossil fuels to renewable fuels.

  Dr. Musculus from Sandia National Labs TMFB_RWTH

21/06/17, Afternoon

In the afternoon Dr. Musculus from Sandia National Labs was giving a very detailed presentation on fuel properties for the US Co-Optima Initiative where the goal is to optimize both, the combustion engine and the used fuel. He first presented a merit function in order to describe what fuel properties engines want and an extensive fuel screening with regard to these properties. Afterwards he presented alternative combustion processes like premixed advanced auto ignition, reactivity controlled compression ignition and mixing controlled compression ignition which all pose different requirements on the used fuels.

  Dr. Gebart from the Division of Energy Science, LULEÅ University of Technology TMFB_RWTH

Dr. Gebart from the Division of Energy Science, LULEÅ University of Technology gave a comprehensive overview about the production and field testing of methanol and dimethylether (DME) from forest industry by-products. He pointed out that pulp mills already can be seen as biorefineries, as additional high value products can be produced via black liquor gasification and methanol/DME production, which have been demonstrated under industrially relevant conditions (27 000 h and 12 000 h respectively). Dr. Gebart pointed out that DME vehicles have been operated commercially with heavy loads and with excellent performance and Methanol has performed similar to DME in optimized engines. However, he noted that some problems still needed to be addressed, e.g. keeping fuel standards, convincing industry and end users.

  Poster Session TMFB_RWTH

22/06/17, Time to conclude

Not only the mentioned keynote sessions brought a lot of innovative input to the conference - many inspiring presentations were held during the various sessions. In total 30 presentations in parallel sessions and nine keynotes were given. This time 28 presentations were held by external speakers from industry and universities from all over the world. Furthermore, this years’ poster session had more than 30 diverse posters ranging from biomass fractionation over biofuel synthesis to fuel combustion and aftertreatment systems, further extending the scientific value of TMFB’s 5th International Conference. Rupali Tripathi was rewarded for her outstanding poster on “An Experimental and Chemical Kinetic Modeling Study of 3-Methyltetrahydrofuran Oxidation” as well as Jan Scheffczyk for his inspiring poster on “Integrated process and solvent optimization for bio-based platform chemicals using COSMO-RS”

Besides the scientific input during the daily sessions, the conference offered the opportunity to establish and maintain contacts in a relaxed atmosphere in the evenings. The social program began on the first evening with the poster party at the conference location, where food and drinks were served while the authors of the posters had the opportunity to give interested colleagues further insight into their research. The highlight of the second evening was the conference dinner, held at the Forum M in Aachen. All participants were invited to join the dinner and enjoy a picturesque view of the old town, enjoying the for the conference typical warm sunset.

Taking a look back, the 5th International Conference bore the comparison with the previous conferences, which set a high standard. The organizers thank everyone who was part of the event and we are already looking forward to our 6th International Conference, taking place from June 19 to 21st in Aachen. Once again, researchers who are interested in an interdisciplinary perspective on the development of novel biofuels and other alternative fuels are invited to take part. Vital discussions, diverse networking opportunities and a lot of valuable input are the main characteristics of TMFB’s International Conference, and we will be happy to share all these benefits with you again next year.