A Combined Photobiological-Photochemical Route to C10 Cycloalkane Jet Fuels from Carbon Dioxide via Isoprene


The hemiterpene isoprene is a volatile C5 hydrocarbon with industrial applications. It is generated today from fossil resources, but can also be made in biological processes. We have utilized engineered photosynthetic cyanobacteria for direct, light-driven production of bio-isoprene from carbon dioxide, and show that isoprene in a subsequent photochemical step, using either near-UV or simulated or natural solar light, can be dimerized into limonene, paradiprene, and isomeric C10H16 hydrocarbons (monoterpenes) in high yields under photosensitized conditions (above 90% after 44 hours with near-UV and 61% with simulated solar light). The optimal sensitizer in our experiments is di(naphth-1-yl)methanone which we use with a loading of 0.1 mol%. It can also easily be recycled for subsequent photodimerization cycles. The isoprene dimers generated are a mixture of [2+2], [4+2] and [4+4] cycloadducts, and after hydrogenation this mixture is nearly ideal as a drop-in jet fuel. Importantly the photodimerization can be carried out at ambient conditions. However, the high content of hydrogenated [2+2] dimers in our isoprene dimer mix lowers the flash point below the threshold (38 °C), yet, these dimers can be converted thermally into [4+2] and [4+4] dimers. When hydrogenated these monoterpenoids fully satisfy the criteria for drop-in jet fuels with regard to energy density, flashpoint, kinematic viscosity, density, and freezing point. Life-cycle assessment results show a potential to produce the fuel in an environmentally sustainable way.

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Some additional clarifications and text modifications. Revision and improvements of three figures. Addition of further references.


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Supplementary material

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Rana etal ESI 220831FINAL
Supporting information material with additional material on photobiology, photochemistry (experimental and computational data), life cycle assessment, NMR spectra, and Cartesian coordinates.